“Most people can manage a remote team, few can lead.”
Working remotely is finally here because of the Coronavirus, and many managers just got uncomfortable. Not only because of the virus, but now they are being forced to lead a remote team.
Executive leaders at organizations like Wells Fargo, Amazon, Apple, Google, and many small to medium-sized businesses have instituted remote work policies to keep employees safe.
While I commend these companies, there is no doubt there are many managers that are now responsible for leading a remote team without any prior experience. Leading teams is hard. Leading an entire team that’s new to working remotely is even harder.
Leadership is already hard, and it just got harder.
Many people can manage a remote team, but leading them is much different. Before we go any further, it’s important to level-set on the definition of a leader. They’re defined in Building the Best as:
“Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”
Add a remote workforce and living out this definition of leadership becomes challenging for a few key reasons:
- Team member uncertainty and fear regarding the Coronavirus
- Technology issues related to working remotely
- Less work because of the economic slowdown
If you find yourself in a position of leadership and are now responsible for leading a remote team, here are a few best practices to help ensure you are leading and not managing:
The biggest hurdle is the mindset shift required to be successful. Working remotely doesn’t mean people have to be tied to their desks from 8 AM – 5 PM. In fact, it’s an opportunity to align with what employees already want, flexibility.
In a recent Deloitte study, 94% of respondents said they would benefit from one thing: workplace flexibility in the form of remote work and flexible hours. It’s time to let go of the old belief system and to trust your people. Make sure they know they have the flexibility to manage their own time. One of the significant benefits fo remote work is being able to go for a walk, enjoy a workout, or have lunch/dinner with family. Not to mention, many people are balancing their children being home during this time as well.
Address the Work From Home Struggles Head-On
When my seven-year-old son found out two weeks of school were canceled yesterday, he beamed with excitement. He didn’t realize he would be doing his schoolwork from home, not taking an extended break. Most professionals are working from home for the first time, and it’s essential to ensure the entire team is on the same page.
Our businesses and their financial stability are on the line during this critical economic period. The best way for them to continue to thrive is for people to work hard in the face of adversity. Each person is now responsible for their results more than ever, and the mindset of working remotely versus a passive mindset is paramount. Educate them on the typical struggles they will face working from home.
The state of Remote Report from 2020 found the biggest struggles for remote workers to be:
- Collaboration and communication
- Not being able to unplug
Instead of avoiding these, make your team aware of the struggles they are likely to face and ask them how they are going to create systems to overcome them.
Maintain Team Meetings for the Win
If you are leading a remote team, your ability to run effective team meetings will make or break you. Not only do they provide a platform for communication and connection, but most importantly, they will keep everyone engaged and accountable if done correctly.
Set a weekly Zoom meeting (video on) on Monday or Tuesday and require everyone on the team to attend. My favorite structure for effective remote team meetings goes like this:
- Personal Updates – Weekend activities, news, etc.
- Overview message about current priorities and recent wins
- Individual update – Each team member updates the entire group with three things: one thing they did last week that helped, what they are working on this week, and where they need help.
If there isn’t enough work to do because of the current environment, these team meetings are an opportunity to challenge yourself and your team members to be proactive in finding new ways to aid the company or develop skills they didn’t previously possess.
Show Authentic Appreciation and Care
Since you won’t have the opportunities to show appreciation for the work your team is doing in person. It’s essential you show them authentic appreciation in one way or another. The reason is simple:
Employees who feel appreciated will always do more than what’s expected
Take this example from my friend Adam O’Daniel from Movement Mortgage. His boss showed him he authentically cared about Adam.
Your team has a lot going on right now at home and at work just like Adam did. Take time to show authentic appreciation and to show you care about them. Something as simple as a “thank you” text will go a long way.
If you have been leading a remote team for a while or you are brand new, know you are capable of leading your remote team through this unprecedented time. Embrace the discomfort of your virtual environment and elevate your people to higher levels of performance.
Let me know in the comments section: What do you do to effectively lead your remote team? If you have been a remote team for a while, what are the biggest mistakes leaders make?
About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. He was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.