We constantly are told about how leading remotely is different from generally leading a team. That’s true, sort of…the fact is, once you quit stressing over not PHYSICALLY being with your team, there are more similarities than differences. In reality, remote leadership isn’t different from general leadership. Below, I’ve listed five key ways it’s all still about leading:
- The work still needs to get done. Whether they are in a cubicle ten feet away or at Starbucks in Guam, your team members have assignments, tasks, and duties that must be done, on time, and to a high standard of quality. If people know what’s expected, metrics in place for you to measure their success, and available access to needed resources, it shouldn’t matter where they are.
- There will occasionally be difficult conversations. The one thing about leading remotely is that it’s really easy to avoid conversations you don’t want to have. Good leaders, though, know when feedback is important, and understand the importance of offering it honestly and appropriately. Yes, we may have to do that mediated by technology, which can make an uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable, but it can be done.
- Delegation is a critical skill if you want to stay sane. Even if you’re located in the same location as your team, a manager can — and should — only do so much. A skill many managers struggle with (especially if we came up from the ranks) is delegating work to direct reports. There are two reasons to do it: for development (people learn new skills by facing new challenges), and because your head will explode if you don’t (yes, we need help, too.) The trick when working remotely is to do this in a way that’s equitable (you’re not just picking on the co-located people or the first body you can find) and you’re establishing guidelines, metrics, and check-ins that will allow the “delegatee” to succeed.
- You need to constantly assess how things are going. When we are all together, and there’s lots of hallway chatter, or you can see someone banging their head on their monitor in frustration, it’s easy for your “Spidey Senses” to realize something is wrong. In a virtual world, we are working on the information available to us. If we don’t proactively seek input, we may not have the information we need to make good decisions or avoid problems. You still need that information, you just have to go after it purposefully and often, rather than wait for something to catch your eye.
- The number one people leave (or stay) is you. The number one factor in whether someone stays with a team or a job is his/her relationship with the manager. If there is trust, good communication, and the person feels valued by the manager, it’s more likely that the individual tends to stick around. If those indicators aren’t established, he/she will jump at the first offered opportunity. Virtual team members are statistically more likely to be picked off by head hunters or to chase greener pastures, unless they feel truly connected to their work, their teammates, and their boss.
So as you can see, remote leadership isn’t different from general leadership. HOW we do our jobs has to change, but WHAT we’re supposed to do hasn’t. Think on that one for a while.
If you’re looking for help with how to assess and lead your remote and hybrid teams, check out the Remote Leadership Certificate Series, or start with our How Leaders Create and Manage Remote Teams workshop.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wayne Turmel is the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings.com, and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. For 20 years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology includingMeet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com. Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. He works with organizations around the world to help people use technology to lead people and projects and build productive human connections in an increasingly remote work environment.