Digital Leadership: Leading Remote Teams
Currently, many managers are being asked to lead teams remotely for the first time in their lives. This of course raises new challenges and ways of approaching how you lead an aspire when not having the opportunity to speak face-to-face. For me, I made this transition towards leading remote teams, often based in other countries, many years ago. As such, I wanted to share some tips and suggestions that I have found work well and that hopefully you can implement easily and effectively during these difficult times.
Open Communication – Not only between yourself and members of your team, although it is essential that you carry on with one-to-one meetings digitally, the team needs to remain in touch with each other. The tool doesn’t matter, it could be as simple as a group WhatsApp chat, what matters is the atmosphere created. The team should be encouraged to share everything from quarantine recipes to the difficulties of working with their children running around the home. You want your team to not only stay connected, but human towards one another. It will alleviate potential friction points, misunderstandings, and aide mental health during these isolating times.
Feedback – While always essential, it becomes ever more so in the vacuum that is digital leadership. I’m certain we all know the acronym FAST in regards to feedback. When it comes to digital feedback the frequency, accuracy, specificity, and timeliness of feedback becomes even more essential. Nothing is more demotivating towards a work from home team member to feel that they are completing projects and documents steadily, submitting them and never hearing anything back. As a remote manager you can’t provide too much feedback I have found. Team members seem to become even more hungry for even constructive feedback and coaching when remote, let alone the essential, “well done” and “good job”.
Clarity in Workload & Expectations – There is an odd transformation that happens when someone shifts to working from home full-time. Workload and expectations become cloudy. Perhaps it is a lack of being able to chat with others at lunch or by the water cooler and compare workloads, or perhaps it is natural to become somewhat siloed working from home. Either way, as their leader, it is your responsibility to not only ensure everyone is on the same page as to their workload and expectations but to aide them in breaking down larger projects so they become more manageable and achievable. What is works depends greatly on the individual employee and their needs. I’ve found that for any assignment or changes that are communicated verbally that there absolutely needs to be some kind of capturing of it in text, could be email, a project management system, or some simple WhatsApp messages. However you choose to do it, ensure that you have a confirmation in text somewhere.
Leading teams remotely and/or digitally definitely raises new challenges for leaders more used to a face-to-face work environment. Hopefully something in here you have found helpful. If there is one core message or key takeaway I’d like you to leave with, it is this. Your team members are human beings with unique ways of working, learning and interacting. As such, you as a leader need to identify these quirks and work with them to ensure they achieve their best performance. Tools are helpful, but are just that, a tool to aide the core message or approach. Don’t get hung up on tools, it is about the people behind them.
As always, thanks for reading.