How an Online MBA Prepares You for Remote Management
Many companies now rely more heavily if not entirely on remote work forces. Interacting with professors and other students from a distance, working on group projects in a virtual setting, and learning through web-based platforms are skills that students in an online MBA program put to use on a daily basis, one of the many things getting an MBA online can do for them. Online students develop these and other professional skills that translate directly to managing remote teams.
“Remote work offers several benefits – for both the business and for the environment,” says Janet Friday, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Merck and graduate of the Marylhurst MBA program. “Because I am not commuting to an office on those days, I avoid having to drive my car (lower emissions) and I have more time to devote to my work activities.”
Remote managers face some of the same unique challenges online MBA students do, and learning to overcome them while in school prepares learners for real-world scenarios.1
Tools and Training
Online MBA students have the benefit of experiencing a number of learning methods, along with gaining understanding of how to train others remotely.
Online students become immediately familiar with video training, from presentations and recorded lectures to interactive video scenarios and more. Since managers won’t be there personally to show remote workers the nuances of the job, they can use video, both live and recorded, interactive and static, to visually illustrate job duties.2
Learning virtual presentation and online communication skills benefits students when they deal with remote workforces, because they will be expected to deliver effective online trainings and webinars.3
Since so much communication is nonverbal and video is such a powerful tool, using it whenever possible is essential in the effective management of remote teams, and one of the many reasons MBA degrees are still relevant in the modern business world..
Online MBA students learn better leadership skills by executing various assignments, including working on group projects. “The aspect of the program that focused on the ‘softer’ skills, which are actually the harder skills to master, was the group work that we were required to do” says Anna Spindler, Marylhurst MBA alumni and Director of the global Supply Chain and Logistics for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
These soft skills translate to business leadership and the challenge of managing a more diverse workforce remotely. “The personal dynamics within the various groups are ironically reminiscent of the work place dynamics and I feel having to navigate through the groups to deliver a project helped me develop my leadership and management skills further.”
Online MBA students learn to communicate effectively using chat rooms, discussion boards, blogging platforms, and web chat systems, preparing them to communicate confidently with remote teams.
A majority of human communication is nonverbal, and those are cues you cannot pick up on through chat or even phone conversations. There are plenty of options for switching to video when communicating remotely, including Skype and Google Hangouts.
“Technology has made it easy to talk to my colleagues around the world and share computer screens with the touch of a button, Friday says. “Working remotely is so much more efficient, but is not for everyone. I find it works best when I have already met someone in person and built a working relationship.”
Developing rapport with fellow students and professors can be challenging in an online environment. It is tempting to get right down to business: talk about assignments and what needs to get done. However, demonstrating you care about them as a person helps you in a number of ways.
- Trust: It is vital that employees trust management to consider what is in their best interest when making decisions. It also encourages them to share problems and personal concerns. This same trust also translates to management trusting employees to complete assignments correctly and in a timely manner.
- Motivations: The more a manager gains an understanding of why an employee does things, the more they understand that person’s motivations. The employee learns the same about the manager and the company. Identifying an employee’s motivations helps you offer incentives they will appreciate and means they will like working for you more.
- Benefit of the Doubt: While related to trust, a manager must be able to give their employees the benefit of the doubt when they make an error, the same as managers want employees to give them the benefit of the doubt when they make an unpopular decision or a mistake.
These three areas are also places of rapport that a student must have with his professors and even his peers. Learning to develop that rapport with others you only “know” online translates to doing so in a virtual work environment as well.
In addition, online MBA students learn to have confidence in their professors and fellow students they meet online, even though they may never have met in person. As they move to working with remote workforces, that confidence easily translates to employees and fellow managers who work remotely.
Group chats are great, just like virtual classrooms. However, it is also critical that managers spend one on one time with their remote employees, just like professors and students need to interact on a more personal and focused level whenever possible.
This can be difficult with time zone differences, keeping regular office hours, and other meetings that often take up valuable time.
- Make Availability Clear: A remote worker or student cannot see a closed door, and a professor cannot see when a student has gone offline for the evening. Changing your status on Slack, Skype, or Google is the best way to keep others informed.
- Never Cancel a Remote Appointment: Online students miss many of the nuances of learning that happen in classrooms, and remote workers miss much of the impulsive conversations about work and projects that naturally occurs in the office and informs employees what is happening. Keeping these appointments is vital. It lets professors and students alike know they respect each other’s time, and it let’s employees know a boss cares about keeping them informed. Rescheduling or cancelling is one of the quickest ways to build resentment on both sides of a remote relationship.
- Allow Plenty of Time: Don’t rush these one on one meetings. This is one of the primary opportunities to create rapport, engage in small talk, and share and discover issues before they become larger problems.
There are many reasons for attending MBA classes online, including saving relocation costs, avoiding lengthy commutes, and having more flexibility to balance work, life, and family needs with the challenge of continuing your education.
Besides these advantages, students pursuing their MBA degree in online programs like those offered by Marylhurst University learn professional skills that help them manage teams of remote workers. As more employers rely heavily or even entirely on remote employees these skills make graduates even more desirable to employers..