Managing people is frustrating whether you're big or you're small. People are our biggest asset and, realistically, our biggest liability.
There are lots of approaches to management, and bookstores (remember those?) are filled with manuals on the various techniques.
I've tried a bunch of different ideas, and one of them has been most helpful to me. It works whether your employees are on-site (like ours used to be) or remote (as most of ours are now).
The technique? The daily report.
It's simple, and it's powerful. Here's what you do:
Ask your employees, all of them, to e-mail you a daily report at the end of the day. Ask them to keep it short and sweet. Ask them to provide you with a list of the things they accomplished today. If an e-mail isn't convenient, then let them put it on a sticky note. Keep it quick and easy.
That's it. It's simple, yet powerful.
You'll get connected with what's being done and how much progress has been achieved. Your people will become more aware of how much—or how little—they accomplished that day. You'll know whether things are on track or coming off the rails.
Some days you'll already know what's going to appear in the report: you were there all day, and you were involved in the progress. Other days, you'll be surprised because you were in court or otherwise away from the office. It will be good for you to stay in the loop.
The report works for a variety of other reasons as well. It keeps you from getting frustrated when you can't otherwise tell whether anything is getting done. It gives you fodder for complimenting your team, and it gives you data for making judgments about salary increases, employee evaluations, etc.
Launch the daily report requirement and see what happens. If you've got more than a handful of employees, then you can expect one or more to fail to submit the report daily. That's a bad sign. Those people probably need to be made available to other firms. Show them the door.
For those who comply with your request, you'll find yourself feeling much more positive about the work getting done, and you'll find yourself in a better position to lead and manage the direction of your practice.
Implement the daily report. You'll be glad you did.