Mastering the art of remote leadership is more important than ever before. Here are several tips that will help you become a better leader.
The onset of COVID-19 related concerns has impacted how today’s teams connect and communicate in the workplace. Business executives need to master the art of remote leadership to maintain productivity — especially if their companies decide to continue to embrace remote work in the future.
Fortunately, as more and more leaders are discovering, inspiring and motivating your workforce via email, audio or videoconferencing solutions doesn’t have to be difficult. Use the following strategies to help make the most of remote one-on-ones.
Take the lead on remote meetings
Remote teams face several common challenges that threaten to undermine productivity and engagement, including lack of face-to-face supervision, support and oversight, and access to feedback and information. And that’s before you factor in outside variables such as challenges associated with each individual’s communication styles, at-home distractions and the trials of social isolation. Most importantly, employees are trying to focus on work while taking the appropriate steps to keep themselves and their families well, creating an additional sensitivity that needs to be acknowledged and respected.
As a remote leader, you can offset these challenges in several ways, such as setting aside regular check-ins with remote workers, making yourself available during preset office hours, and providing your team with ways of reaching you. Similarly, to be more effective when working remotely, it’s also important to pre-assign different communication methods to different types of exchanges. Sensitive or subtle interactions are often best handled via videoconference versus email or instant messages, where personal nuance is often lost.
Likewise, as you transition to a work-from-home setup, teams should also know the best ways and times to reach you during the workday and how you’d like emergency and high-priority queries to be tackled.
In addition, to minimise team disruption, any preexisting meetings you had in place before the operating shift remains on the calendar and that teams maintain the same meeting schedule that they did while working in the office.
Pay attention to details
Although it may be tempting to adopt a more leisurely attitude when working and communicating with employees from home, it’s important to maintain a sense of professionalism in all exchanges. Plus, be mindful of what’s visible in the background of any given scene when you’re presenting via video or web camera.
In addition, when presenting, look at the camera directly and avoid typing or checking emails while others are talking. Giving people your full attention is vital when engaging in remote one-on-ones, as is actively making a point to listen and properly absorb the information your team is sharing before jumping ahead to respond.
As you switch to a remote setup, be sure to let workers know that you’re available if they have questions or concerns and set predetermined points to check-in and follow up with them as well.
Promote individual and team interaction
It’s vital to ensure that everyone’s concerns are addressed, schedules are maintained, and projects are on task. Adopting this approach allows you to create healthy forums for dialogue and social interaction.
Remote work can often be isolating and create a sense of removal from one’s team, vision and purpose. Even taking a few minutes at the start of a conversation to get colleagues’ feedback and input or catch up and see how others are doing can go a long way towards helping rekindle empathy and connection.
Similarly, from a team-building standpoint, be sure to set aside times for workday gatherings such as virtual happy hours and office catchups where your colleagues can engage. Doing so helps keep familiar faces front and centre. It can also help increase employees’ sense of belonging while offsetting the isolating effects of social distancing.
Be helpful and show empathy
During times of uncertainty, it’s important to keep peers abreast of current events, maintain a firm sense of direction and minimise disruption. When it comes to working, you can help put anxious workers at ease by keeping them informed and up-to-date on the latest happenings that impact your employer and workplace. During remote one-on-ones, make a point to regularly check with direct reports and state what your company action plan is for dealing with current events.
Similarly, if you have to convey bad news, be short, straightforward and empathetic. While furloughs, project delays, and other plan changes aren’t easy to say, being honest and respectful with co-workers is the best policy. Whatever the nature of your remote one-on-ones or group events, prepare for possible questions that employees may ask, have any supporting information ready to go and take time to talk through how any impending changes impact your team.
Whatever the future brings—and it’s worth remembering that many companies are well-poised to ride out temporary disruptions—it pays to be on the level with your peers. It also presents the opportunity to signal the respect you have for your workforce with empathy and understanding. In uncertain times, people want to know what’s happening — so be sure to take the lead and let them know where things stand and what’s next.
Provide routine encouragement and support
Like senior managers, employees are often left stressed and anxious in the wake of unexpected events. Leaders are encouraged to acknowledge these concerns, set aside time to listen to others’ worries, and actively seek ways to empathise. Especially when working remotely, it’s vital to see how others are doing. Similarly, you might also pose other questions to them that may help provide insight into the state of their thoughts and ways you can help.
Remember: Exercising emotional intelligence and providing others with comfortable contexts to air their feelings and opinions is a crucial part of modern leadership.
In addition, making others’ concerns an area of focus during times of disruption is crucial. So is projecting a sense of reassurance at every turn. The more you acknowledge colleagues’ feelings and make serving others a priority, the more successful you can be. Top leaders not only inspire confidence in their peers but also provide a sense of encouragement.
Don’t forget that remote work doesn’t have to be as challenging as you may think. You can lead successfully by creating better working habits and letting others know you’re on top of situations. Likewise, you can inspire workers to lead and succeed by reminding them that, with the support of your team, a little perseverance and ingenuity is all it takes to help the business get back on its feet.