Community//

Author Lin Grensing-Pophal: “Share feedback formally on a regular basis”

Another important aspect of effective remote management which is also true of managing people in person is clearly conveying desired goals and outcomes. This is — or should be — done in the same manner regardless of whether the employee is on site or at home and is equally important in both environments. As a part of our series […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Another important aspect of effective remote management which is also true of managing people in person is clearly conveying desired goals and outcomes. This is — or should be — done in the same manner regardless of whether the employee is on site or at home and is equally important in both environments.


As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lin Grensing-Pophal.

Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a business journalist with a background in corporate communications and human resource management. She has many years of experience working remotely for a wide range of clients located around the globe and has managed remote workers herself. She writes and speaks frequently on HR-related topics and is especially passionate about employee communication, effective management practices and developing employees as brand ambassadors. Her most recent book is Managing Remote Staff: Capitalize on Work-from-Home Productivity.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I became interested in the idea of remote work — or telecommuting — while working for a company that was going through a merger. I was unable to relocate and knew that the corporate headquarters would be in a location too far for me to commute to. Having been a freelance writer for a number of years I was familiar with working for people I wasn’t physically in proximity too so I was curious: Why can’t I be a corporate communications director for a company across the country? As I did my research for my first book on the topic, though, I soon discovered that it was quite uncommon for people to be hired to work remotely, although in some cases companies would allow an existing employee to shift to remote work for various personal reasons.

Since that time, it’s been an issue I’ve monitored closely. I started my own firm, Strategic Communications, in 2008 and continue to work remotely with clients, as well as manage remote contractors and interns.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

When going through the merger I mentioned earlier, a colleague in a senior level communication role transferred to our corporate headquarters and I was able to move into his position — a significant upward shift for me that launched me into the world of corporate communications and marketing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m sure I’ve made a number of mistakes during my career, but I can’t really think of any funny ones…

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Stay in close contact with them, communicate with them regularly, make it clear how their work efforts contribute to the success of the overall organization, provide them with both positive and constructive feedback regularly and help them achieve their personal and professional goals.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I have 12 years of experience. I started my firm in 2008.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

I honestly don’t feel that managing a remote team has to be that different from managing a team in front of you. This is a common myth. In fact, many managers have been working with remote teams for many years; they just don’t think about it in the same way. For instance, think about a financial services industry manager who has employees located in various branch offices. Or a leader in a global organization whose staff members may be situated around the world. These are remote workers.

The main challenges that are generally pointed to are: #1, communication, #2, communication, #3, communication from both sides of the equation — employee and manager. But communication is important in any working relationship, regardless of where the employee and manager may be physically located.

Another important aspect of effective remote management which is also true of managing people in person is clearly conveying desired goals and outcomes. This is — or should be — done in the same manner regardless of whether the employee is on site or at home and is equally important in both environments.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Be explicit about expectations and commit them to writing.

Set up regularly scheduled times to touch base with employees, individually and as part of the work group or team.

Share feedback formally on a regular basis.

Use multiple channels for communication.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

There has been such widespread adoption of tools like Zoom since the pandemic emerged, that I don’t know that this needs to be a problem. We’re able to interact via video in one-on-one meetings that virtually replicate the in-person experience in terms of seeing each other and being alert to non-verbal cues.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I wouldn’t recommend giving constructive feedback via email. This could be done by phone or, preferably, through Zoom or similar tools.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

You can’t overcommunicate in situations like this — or during any stage of the employment relationship, truthfully, whether physically removed or not. Again, it’s important to set up regular times for formal interactions. It’s also important to encourage employees to reach out themselves to connect with colleagues, either formally or informally and to set up times for social interactions that might take place over coffee, lunch, adult beverages or other gatherings. Some employers are even sending employees food baskets or similar items and then convening a social group to share the treats together.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Communication, clearly stated goals and objectives, frequent feedback.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of my mantras has always been “judge each individual on their merits.” I think if we could all commit to doing this, personally and professionally, we could move beyond a lot of the bias, misconceptions and miscommunication that exists today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand.” Having been a manager for many years, a parent, a spouse and a friend, and someone who generally avoids conflict at all costs, I’ve found that listening first, talking later, works well to help understand another person’s perspective and find common ground to resolve most situations.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

The Extended Manager’s Guide for Managing Remote Teams

by Nora Price
Community//

Handling Your Employees’ Fears about the Coronavirus

by Kerrian Fournier
Community//

How to Improve Employee Communication While Working Remotely

by Gary Valkenburg
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.