I’ve seen a lot about working remotely of late. However as we work remotely our leadership challenges increase. Many managers will be leading remote teams for the first time in this crisis. Leading remotely requires leaders to be deliberate and proactive.
Here are a few suggestions to manage the challenge better:
Increase the context: we often rely on informal communication in the workplace. People hear conversations, see whiteboards and have a good context for their work and engagements. In remote working, leaders need to help teams to create that context. People want the big picture. Encourage working out loud, over share, use your ESN and chat platforms, and start conversations with introductions and background. People can’t understand each other without shared context. In fast moving situations, it is more important.
Add one-on-ones: one-on-one conversations are a great routine in regular cycles. They are even more important in remote work. Have multiple conversations scheduled for coaching in the week. These will be replacing informal chats, provide a focus point for problems and feedback and ensure nobody feels lost or out of touch.
Delegate projects not tasks: remote working doesn’t support micromanagement. Give people the autonomy to tackle whole projects and the ability to manage their delivery around what else is on in their work environment.
Coach, not Answer: teams that are used to getting answers from their leader will be a little lost with remote work. Now is the time to give them the challenge of solving problems with others. Your role is to coach that process, not do the work.
Build team connection: working remotely is isolating. Build the team’s connection to each other and to others across the organisation. Celebrate wins, share positives, thank people publicly and keep the cycle of interaction moving.
Listen: Just as your communication is impaired, so will your team’s. Listen carefully, question deeply and don’t jump to conclusions. People may be struggling to get an issue to your attention.
Manage energy levels: You can’t see the work but you can sense the energy. Manage tension in the team. Set challenges and encourage people. That means extra checkin and group calls and chats.
Overindex on Care: These are challenging times. Focus deeply on your people’s needs and concerns. They matter and it’s not good for them to be alone with anxieties.
Don’t do it alone: Look after yourself. If you don’t have the coaching and support you need, buddy up with a peer to get help.
Leaders are there to help teams through challenges. This is a chance to show your support.