What has your work life looked like over the past 12 months? Have you spent some, or even almost all your time trying to do your best to utilize remote leadership? If so, you’re just like millions of others in the COVID-19 era economy. Our business has changed based on a need for safety and social distancing initially. Still, many companies have discovered that a remote working model is something they want to stick with. What does this mean for those in leadership roles or management positions? Well, it means the standard business practices for effective leaders need to be reconfigured to suit a hybrid model of remote and in-person teams.
Before working out how to lead, you’ll first need to establish what it means to lead. Leadership is working with your team towards a common goal. In order to be a leader, you need to ensure you are being followed. If your team isn’t on the same page and isn’t following, you are not successfully leading.
The basic leadership principles have not changed, but they need to be applied in a new way to fit the new reality of remote leadership and business. The principles of leadership can be summed up with the Three-O Model, which is:
Leadership means working with your team to reach common outcomes. When your team is working remotely, you may wonder what each person is doing and if they are accomplishing anything. Recognize this is not any different than an employee in the office; just because you can see them, you aren’t certain they are being productive. Research shows that employees working from home are actually more productive!
To identify whether or not your team (both remote and in-person) is working productively, you can define expectations and manage the perception. Different people may choose to work at different times of the day, based on their own unique situations. Be mindful of this and look out for team members overworking themselves to the point of burnout. Let your team know what you expect of them so they can more easily operate within those boundaries. Don’t mistake activity for achievement.
Beyond communicating with your team as individuals, you’ll need to work in times for everyone to meet together as a team to give everyone a chance to share thoughts towards the goals. You can consider formal meetings less frequently (maybe monthly) and informal meetings more often (maybe weekly). Again, make sure to use the webcam for these meetings. This way you can confirm everyone is present and engaged.
With remote leadership, you must engage with your team on an individual level to ensure they are committed to the outcomes you’re all working toward. Connect with both their hearts and their minds through adequate communication. Instead of treating your employees the way you want to be treated, observe their needs and lead each in the way that works best for them as individuals. Equal does not have to mean the same. Look to adjust frequency, length, and mode of communication as it suits the individual. Involve your employee in making the decision as to when and how often to check-in and share ownership of communications with them. Use the webcam for your remote meetings!
You’ve heard it said before – you can’t pour from an empty cup. To be a great leader, you must also make time to fulfill your own needs. Carve out time to unwind and refocus so you can approach your responsibilities with a clear head and even temper.
Use Technology to Your Advantage. Today’s multitude of technical options allow for two different types of communication for remote leadership, depending on the nature of the need:
Asynchronous Communication: Exchange information when you need without the need for everyone to be present at the same time. Tools you can use for asynchronous communication include:
- Video Recorded Messages. This allows you to add a visual component to your communication.
- Common File Locations. Platforms such as SharePoint, Google Docs, and Microsoft Teams allow a permanent, easily accessible, and searchable central warehouse for information.
- Email. Email is best used when you need a greater scope, when you have many who need the same message at the same time or when you need a permanent record of communication.
Synchronous Communication: Live exchange of information where everyone needs to be present live (even if remotely) to participate.
- Video Chat and WebCam. Encourage the use of webcams, especially for one-on-one meetings. Being able to see the other person helps encourage communication, reduce isolation, and build trust.
- Text Messaging and Instant Messaging. Proper tone and etiquette are important here! This is most appropriate when the message is very time-sensitive.
- Web Meetings. Web meetings are far superior to conference calls. They allow file transfers, polls or surveys, whiteboard, and chat, as well as face-to-face connection.
These tips will help you to continue to effectively lead, even when you have a remote team. Remember, WHAT you are doing hasn’t changed, it’s just HOW you’re doing it that is new.
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Strategic Performance Consultant
Nadine is a learning and development enthusiast with a passion for working with individuals, teams, and organizations to help them unlock their full potential, grounded in growing their emotional intelligence. In her previous position as a Director of Enterprise Talent Development, she focused on improving learning and development practices to support the needs of today’s learners, leveraging technology solutions, and establishing the right framework for continuous learning.
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