“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
– John Maxwell
Businesses are in uncharted waters and leaders are attempting to adjust their sails. The shift to remote work presents many challenges, but this uncertain time also presents many opportunities. Once we have overcome this latest challenge—and we will overcome it—we will have gained valuable knowledge and skills. As we face the future and the changes that come with it, remote work is only going to become more and more common. The opportunity to make remote leadership a core competency is upon us.
Many of our clients have implemented remote work in order to recruit the best talent regardless of geography. I have had the opportunity to study, observe, and participate in remote leadership. If you are new to remote leadership due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this is an opportunity to grow and become stronger. If you have experience being a remote leader, we hope to share information that will validate as well as improve upon your current efforts. This is not a comprehensive guide to leadership—the following 9 tips are designed to focus on healthy and productive remote leadership.
1. Emotion boosts morale and motivates the team
As a remote leader, attempt to be a source of enthusiasm, encouragement, and innovation to your team. Remote workers are not surrounded by people who can provide emotional input, so you have the opportunity to be a powerful positive force in their day.
2. Focus on the individual
The individuals on your team can be either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Some individuals are energized by encouraging words and others are not. Some individuals are motivated by recognition and others are impaired by it. Some individuals view time spent with leaders as helpful while others view it as micromanagement. As a remote leader, attempt to be more intentional in your interactions with the individuals on your team. There are many profile assessment tools that can assist you in identifying the best ways to work with your team remotely. Contact TeamBuilder Search if you need help choosing the right profile assessment tool.
3. Face-to-face interactions are productive
People tend to communicate better and bond more strongly over video calls. Audio calls do not foster as much trust among team members. Video calls are not always appropriate but look for opportunities in which video calls may be preferable to audio calls.
4. Facilitate belonging and team learning
In addition to promoting productive communication, video conferences with the remote team also facilitate an environment of belonging and team learning. Informal interaction at the beginning of team video conferences can promote a sense of belonging. These informal interactions can be as simple as sharing what’s new in each person’s life, or team members sharing knowledge they found helpful since the last team conference. These strategies promote a sense of individual belonging and knowledge sharing.
5. Engage in mentoring-based communications, not just information transactions
Mentoring remotely requires a leader to be more intentional. Communications consisting entirely of information transactions do not foster trust or bonding among team members. It is easy to overlook coaching moments and learning opportunities while leading remotely—ensure that you are intentional in engaging in mentoring-based communications with your remote workers.
6. Email is not always the best communication tool
Email may be the most overused communication tool in the workplace. Email is often used to quickly get things off your plate and onto someone else’s, which can lead to poor communication in a remote work setting. Remote workers are more reliant on electronic communications, so as a remote leader you should continually check your use of email. Before you send that quick email, think about picking up the phone instead.
7. Focus on removing obstacles
Hiring great people isn’t enough to ensure the success of your business— you must also remove obstacles that impair the success of your workers. As a remote leader, ensure that you regularly ask your remote workers, “What do you need from me?” I have found that a simple text— “Are you okay? Do you need anything from me?” is a great way to promote productive conversation and connection with remote workers. Asking these questions does not replace other communications, but in today’s busy world, simply checking in with remote workers can be effective in building productive remote working relationships.
8. Focus on serving down, not just serving up
It is easy to focus on making the boss happy, but depending on your team to make that happen leads to an unhealthy, grinding economy that is difficult to sustain. As a remote leader, regularly check your mindset in regards to serving and supporting your team. This is an important practice in all work settings, but it is especially important in remote work settings where relationship building is more challenging.
9. Establish boundaries and harmony
When working remotely, it can be difficult to maintain boundaries between your work and your personal life. To maximize the productivity of yourself and your team, establish clear boundaries around your time and attention. Set clear times for when your attention is on work and separate times for when your attention is on your personal priorities. Share these boundaries with your team in order to set appropriate expectations on the response and support you will be able to provide as a remote leader. In terms of boundaries, do not expect anything from your team that you would not expect from yourself.
Remote leadership can be challenging. As we all navigate our current circumstances, we have the opportunity to learn this new skill which could prove advantageous. These 9 tips do not form a complete guide to remote leadership. There is much more to say about specific technology tools and even leadership basics such as vision casting and goal setting. However, TeamBuilder Search hopes to validate your current efforts and to introduce some effective strategies in navigating remote leadership.
For more tips on leading and building your team, check out our Knowledge Center.