Leadership in any context is challenging, let alone when it comes to remote workers. A recent study revealed that 80% of employees prefer to work remotely for at least part of their time. With an increase every year in remote work across industries, managers across all organizations will need to adapt to the needs of remote teams, making sure they can lead such workers towards meeting specific goals. Whether you’re managing employees in different time zones, offices, or departments, here is why leadership is important to your remote teams' success.
There are many factors to consider when handling remote teams. Because verbal communication and physical interaction can be limited, managers often feel as if they don’t have adequate control over the situation but there are ways to help improve communication and productivity through good leadership implementation.
Using an effective leadership strategy will help you to overcome these challenges and get the best out of your teams that are working offsite. Here are some keys to help managers adapt and thrive in this new leadership role.
Constant communication is critical when leading remote teams. It’s the best way of tracking progress, addressing challenges, and boosting productivity. Because there’s minimal face-to-face contact with remote employees, you should develop communication goals that your team members can easily adhere to. Using a project management tool like Asana is a great way to communicate on projects, along with regular email communication and even conference calls.
Clear communication channels improve your feedback cycle and provide more opportunities to keep everyone on the right path. Consider daily “stand-up” checking chats via video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Hangout. Add to that weekly status video conference times and use a chat tool like Slack or Google Hangouts for more immediate back and forth team communication and collaboration.
Another significant challenge with managing remote workers is setting expectations. Proper leadership involves informing each team member of what’s expected of them. Because contact is limited, you may have fewer opportunities to emphasize employee expectations on a daily basis. This is why having a detailed plan for setting expectations is critical when leading remote teams.
You can set expectations in many different ways. Showing examples of specific workflows, develop a calendar of tasks, establish a routine for reporting progress, and providing timely feedback are all effective strategies for setting expectations in remote workers.
The productivity of remote teams will largely be affected by trust. As a leader, you should remember that workers have a sense of independence when working remotely. Instead of micromanaging to cover up for limited contact with a remote worker, a better leadership strategy is to develop trust. Give your remote teams the freedom to make decisions when handling critical tasks.
You should also seek their feedback when designing schedules, setting expectations, and developing outcomes. When remote teams feel that they have significant input, they’re more likely to have personal accountability and buy into your message.
Another important goal of leading remote teams is collaboration. Leadership is all about bringing out the best in people as they work towards a common goal. Therefore, leaders play a critical role in building collaboration among team members even when they’re not physically present.
There are many different tools available for collaborating in real-time. Maximize face-to-face contact by using video conferencing on a regular basis. Keep such conference calls to small teams and make them short and sweet. In this way, you’ll be able to foster team building and identify the strengths/weaknesses of every team member.
Another challenge with remote employees can be keeping them focused on your company’s goals/objectives. Because they’re not physically present at an office location, they may find your company’s mission and values harder to adhere to.
Leaders of remote teams should strive to keep employees focused on the outcomes of your business. Setting deadlines and following up on a regular basis can help keep them focused on the objective. This means that you should remind remote workers of the critical role they play through their daily tasks. When such employees feel like part of a larger goal, they’re more likely to perform at a high level.
Looking for help? Tired and believing there has got to be a better way?
Let’s talk about life, leadership, and business coaching. With over a decade of experience leading companies and transforming lives, and a Master’s degree in Org Development and Leadership, Mike can help you find the best way forward!