Remote leadership can be hard to get right whether you are leading a team remotely or a team member part of a remote team.
I was talking to a lady who I sat next to on a plane a couple of weeks back and she said her off-shore manager very rarely called her, there was no development or training opportunities and he didn’t see the need for her to go to the Australian office – not even for the end of year staff function. She acknowledged that while this gave her a whole lot of flexibility, it did nothing for her need to connect with other team members and be able to understand what was going on in the organisation and it was hard for her to stay motivated when she had no feedback or engagement.
Having been in remote leadership roles and being a team member of remote teams, there’s some key fundamentals to apply that can go a long way to having remote teams work effectively. Here’s my view:
Connection is vital for team members. They don’t have an identity with a physical location so communication needs to be over-done. This doesn’t mean calling every 5 minutes or micromanaging, it simply means setting structured times for weekly calls and ensure that these are not done via the phone, but rather through some visual platform – facetime, video conference, skype, zoom. Only those whose learning style is auditory can produce good conversation – most of us are a combination or visual or kinaesthetic learners so a phone call isn’t enough. Answer the question – if I wasn’t working in the office every day, what would I need to know about what’s going on… and pass that information on. This is the important stuff. This will go some way to addressing the “Them and Us” and the sense of “I am not important”
Whilst there is flexibility for those working remotely and reporting into head office, there also has to be ownership and personal accountability from both the leader and team member to establish some clear deliverables. When it goes pear shape around this, it is usually because there has been little structure and understanding of what is expected of both to ensure success. It can also lead to a power/ control discussion where important territory information won’t be found anywhere written – it’s in the individual’s head leading to significant challenges should the team member leave. Not knowing what the person is doing is not conducive to successful outcomes – especially if communication is ad hoc.
There needs to be a clear direction in understanding what belonging means to the team members and creating the connection between the whole team (team calls, branch catch ups more regularly around the region) to develop peer relationships and trust amongst the whole team. This is where team development models are imperative to getting connection and engagement.
If you have had a team in an office and had to transition to a being a remote team, this can become even more complex and it is imperative to get right from the outset.
Understanding how each person operates, what makes them tick to do their best work, what they need in terms of structure and behaviour will help make the transition easier. Some team members will go through a change grief process where the physical space that tied them to the organisation has been removed and not replaced with the same. It’s about guiding them through that process.
Often the people part of an office change is left out or not a primary focus in the change management plan. However organisations are made up of people, and how each person shows up everyday is a direct correlation to the overall performance of the organisation.
Finally the last thing is to ask yourself if you were sitting in their shoes, what would you want to know and how would you like to be supported?
There is so much more to remote leadership to get it right but when it is, there is often more productivity than in office based environments – it just takes time and planning.
I am all about creating collectively powerful leaders and culture safe organisations. I offer a remote leadership module that can be delivered on or off site – from workshops, leadership training or leadership pod coaching.
If you would like to know more, reach out and let’s have a chat.