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Managing an off-site boss

Out of sight need not mean out of mind

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in Dealing with Bosses,Office Management

As companies decentralize their operations, more managers work independently of their boss at another location. That’s great if you stay in touch despite the distance.

While you might enjoy being left alone to work, the chances of miscommunication soar when you cannot routinely interact face to face. When you operate in the same building as your higher-ups, you can tap informal communication channels, such as leaving key documents on someone’s chair or overhearing whether a meeting is about to end so that you can nab your boss on the way out.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed if you’re posted far away. Here’s how to stay in the loop:

Establish routines. Get your boss into the habit of expecting certain things from you. Examples: Call at a certain time every day to review the day’s numbers, or e-mail lunch time status reports that summarize your team’s daily production rate. By training your bosses to expect your incoming calls or memos, you never stray far from their minds.

Hold conference calls. Suggest getting three or four people on the phone at once for a quick “telemeeting.” This way, you reduce the likelihood that your message will get distorted when relayed from one of your bosses to another. And by holding a conversation with key decision makers at once, you ensure that everyone will know what everyone else thinks at the same time.

Confirm every commitment in writing. When you promise to get something done, make it official. Don’t just tell your boss over the phone that it’ll be taken care of. Send a follow-up fax or email confirming the facts that you agreed to verbally.

Visit regularly. Find a reason to spend at least a few hours of “face time” in the office every month or two. Plan your office visit carefully to maximize the number of people you see during your limited time.

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