With the arrival of Covid, there have been a number of changes, not least that for many months a large proportion of the population worked from home. For some of us, this was normal. For others, totally alien. Whilst some folks thrive, others find it really difficult. It got me thinking of the skills you need to lead a team remotely.
I was having a conversation with a mentor the other day and she said she’s seeing a difference in the types of leaders thriving in remote working. Working remotely has changed some of the skills we need as leaders as well as how we deliver them. I asked on LinkedIn what people felt about remote working and here are some of the responses.
Key skills for leaders
Fill the connection gap
One of the things that people find difficult about working remotely is the lack of interaction. It is easy to unintentionally withhold information or not give enough context to a situation. This can erode trust and start a toxic environment of blame and suspicion. To build trust within a team you need to make an intention to fill the connection gap.
- Pay attention to how and when you share information; create opportunities for transparency.
- Aim to communicate more than you think is necessary.
- Look for ways to connect the team, I take part in a weekly water cooler chat with my self-employed tribe. We all have different values, interests or attitudes to work but we always find something to talk about! As we find out more about people, we trust them even more.
It’s important that you show your employees empathy and offer some emotional support, especially those who are struggling. If you have a daily check-in, which is recommended, then make sure you check in with the individual too.
Ask how they are doing, specifically how they’re coping with working remotely and make sure you listen attentively to their responses, especially if they are struggling.
Offering one-to-one calls can be especially helpful to elicit responses from your employees and provide them with a safe space in which to discuss their concerns with you.
If a worker has concerns or is feeling stressed, give them time to discuss this and try to put a plan in place to support them.
Remaining human & investing time & empathy to ensure everyone successfully managed the transition was critical.- Dan Ince
When you are working remotely planning becomes even more important as everyone needs clarity on what needs to be done, by when and by whom. A simple plan that everyone can access and use can be helpful. Remember too to include a way of letting everyone know their availability.
I would encourage you to talk openly with your team about productivity, and how they like to work. Then give them space to get on with it. Focus on being achievement-focused rather than activity focused. I never felt more empowered than when I was allowed to work in my own way. My boss trusted me to work as and when I wanted – so if I had to take time off to go to the dr or if I needed to pick up the kids they trusted me to do the task, even if that meant that I had to work outside my normal hours.
Recognise that people work and engage in different ways and balance different methods of sharing information – video calls, Slack, phone, text, emails etc.
Make an intention to be really clear in all of your communication. Communication is the tool that you need to stay connected. Sometimes we aim for efficient communication, whereby we assume that short, sharp communication is better but this can actually end up being more confusing. As I said earlier, communicate more frequently than you think is necessary. Not enough communication is one of the causes of folks feeling isolated, invisible or unvalued in a remote team.
Communication is key, don’t just do work check-ins, actually check-in on them personally as well.- Emma Clements
Listening is also part of your communication toolkit. Especially important if you are not on a video call and can’t see body language. Additionally consider each team members’ preferred communication style, response time and tone. Aim to keep everyone in the loop without back to back zoom calls! There are a plethora of ways to communicate, find one that works for you and your team.
Remember to do your best and not to beat yourself up if it doesn’t work all of the time. Aim for 80% success.
Your coaching skills come in to play even more when leading a team remotely. Aim to coach them rather than telling them what to do and how to do it. Ask them good questions to build their confidence and resilience. For example:
- What has gone well this week?
- What was it that you did that brought success?
- How will this enable you to contribute to the development of others in the team?
- What ideas motivate you?
- How do the needs and expectations of others bring out the best in you?
Remote workers will come across challenges they’ll need to solve all the time so use an approach to performance management that encourages them to build their problem-solving skills and get more resourceful.
Use check-ins to strengthen your relationships, gauge progress and help overcome barriers. These are times for greater openness, understanding and appreciation. Express your gratitude wherever you can.
No one has a playbook, there’s no best practice, everyone is trying things to see what works so letting team members know that and being vulnerable and open to suggestions is important. And making time to listen.- Ann Hawkins