“Leading remotely makes the complex role of leading even more complex. It takes new skills to get better results. – Kevin Eikenberry
The world is driven by technology, which has transformed how we communicate, behave and consume information. Research shows over 40% of full time workers are working remotely and that number is rapidly increasing over the next decade. Telecommuting is on a global scale raising the demand for more effective borderless communication and engagement.
Having remote employees and teams brings a unique challenge to leadership, whether you are an entrepreneur running a startup, or a senior leader of a well-established organization. The ability to maintain morale, productivity and innovation between locations and teams will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future.
Here are 6 Approaches to Lead Remotely:
1. Use Collaborative Technology
Implementing more visual correspondence is key. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are great tools that allow us to interact in the most natural way, which includes non-verbal communication. Video allows you to gauge someone’s mood or see whether something might be wrong. Paying heed to non verbal cues can foster a more proactive resolution to problems and increase the ability to build a rapport.
Don’t forget to integrate individual web applications to a unified platform like DropBox, Google Drive, or Slack and make sure your calendar is visible so you can easily make appointments and build a community connection.
2. Check in Regularly
Master the art of speaking about goals, but also take the time to share what is happening in the here and now so that your employees have a holistic view. Create predictability on when certain launches will occur by establishing specific dates and times. Given that your employees are offsite, it’s important to truly understand their motivations and interests outside work to build team morale. Of course there will be times where it is clear the chat needs to be about getting things done and executing, but that should not be your only focus. Talking only about business won’t provide an engaged, enthusiastic work environment.
3. Create a Game plan for Meetings
Your meetings should be an opportunity for your employees to be influential and collaborative. Whether they are recurring or one-off meetings, it’s essential to involve all of your remote workers. Sharing updates on business development allows employees to visualize the bigger picture. Everyone wants to be part of something big and get paid for it.
Lead the meetings by reversing the roles. Encourage ownership of action; it solicits contributions and innovation. Ask your team members for their assessment on what has been done, whether they believe it’s going well, the roadblocks they have encountered and most importantly what help do they need from you. Let them drive the conversation but ask questions that will prompt them to explore possibilities and pitfalls. Talk less, listen more.
4. Balance Time Zones
Having remote employees across multiple time zones and maintaining inclusive meetings is challenging. There will always be an outlier for whom the timing is not ideal. Promoting team cohesiveness and active participation requires adjusting the schedule to be balanced where the majority of remote employees can attend without overlooking those that can’t. Accommodating to time zones on a rotational basis alleviates the concern of “one-sidedness”.
5. Career Paths Matter
Don’t forget the career aspirations of your remote employees as they can easily fall into an “out of sight, out of mind” funk. Remote employees have the same aspirations and career desires as those who are in the office. Assess who these professionals are and map out their goals so that they feel part of the whole.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with an established date and time; block out more time as needed. You no longer have the luxury of impromptu conversations in the office which helps build rapport, so your discussions need to be longer and touch several different topics. Most importantly, try not to cancel the meeting. Remote employees already feel distant from the group and cancelling long standing appointments is never good. Setting aside blocks of time on your calendar specifically allocated for your remote employees will help to keep you disciplined.
6. Set Expectations
Define clear lines of accountability, including what is expected on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. How will you measure success? Be deliberate on how ongoing interactions will occur. Agree on time boundaries like responding to emails, phone calls, and working in the evenings or weekends. Less time with each other requires greater clarity to stay focused on the goals vs the accomplishments.
All these tactics contribute to a healthy, progressive work environment for those who work remotely and those in office. The idea is to be as cohesive and collaborative as possible so that your team easily work towards a common goal.