Effective leadership in a global workplace requires more creativity and diligence than ever before. Never in the history of the world have more people worked so far apart geographically, yet more closely for critical deliverables.
Gallup recently reported that 29% of remote-capable jobs are exclusively remote, while another 52% are hybrid. 1 The challenges are amplified with remote team members who are likely scattered across time zones of states and provinces, regions and continents. Finishing the math, you see that only 20% are fully onsite as of this poll.
How To Lead Remote Teams
Use the next few minutes to grapple with some do’s and don’ts toward improving your remote leadership and better engaging your entire team.
Don’t Presume They Are Available 24/7
Compelling everyone to be available for 16-18 hours is unreasonable. Plenty of research confirms that engagement, productivity and innovation all decline quickly when people don’t step away to enjoy personal pursuits like rest, family and hobbies.
Do Clearly Explain Expectations
First, for their work—purpose and goals of initiatives, responsibilities and standards for tasks, quality and timelines, should be transparent and known by all, no matter where they get work done. Second, for how the dispersed team will function effectively together. Invite the team to create these expectations together—a “team agreement”—so there is fairness and ownership, which leads to mutual accountability. Suggest that team meetings, for example, will happen on Mondays every week, but rotate through the time zones so that everyone both gets up early and stays up late occasionally.
Don’t Assume Remote Is Easier & Overload Your Employees
Every person has the same number of hours in a day and a personal capacity for knowledge, attention, creativity and skill. Not being in close proximity to some teammates can create challenges that make remote work more difficult, not less.
Do Work Hard to Provide Well-Structured Communication
Slow down and summarize or rephrase often in conversations, especially when several speakers have different accents, intonation, volume and speed of speech. Record meetings to allow people to review portions at their own convenience. Follow meetings with succinct written summaries that confirm decisions, assignments and due dates. For each item, use a RACI chart to identify who will be responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. Encourage regular 1:1s, via video whenever possible, and not only for the leader with each direct report, but peers with each other. Ask in leader 1:1s how the peer 1:1s are going and how they are beneficial to ensure they are building relationship, trust and understanding across the team.
This is the quickest way to erode and even destroy trust with those you lead. The Situational Leadership® Model enables you to vary your leadership style and avoid excessive under and overleading, which also prevents bias in leading certain people one way and others, another. Reporting work hours and output is largely understood, particularly by those working remotely, so establishing the ways in which every team member (office, hybrid, remote) will be responsible to the others for their portions of the work should be settled as a team. Revisit this element of the team agreement regularly to maintain transparency and accountability.
Do Evaluate Your Approach With Each Person For Each Task
Ask each person regularly what is working well and what isn’t. Inquire as to the team member’s view of fairness across the team and be willing to adapt processes and standards to work well for all. Polls and surveys could be useful here with a large team. Encourage their ideas and solutions, then commit to any changes you want to make or even try on a temporary basis. Exercise humility and empathy as you receive feedback that may surprise you. Commit in word and deed that distance or lack of in-person contact will not become a barrier to any person’s, or the team’s, optimal performance.
Don’t Forget The Human Element
Each person is a human being created with a desire to work and achieve. Each joined the organization for a reason and likely resonate with the organization’s mission, values, products and services. Each wants their skill and experience to be used and valued. Each needs affirmation, appreciation and even celebration for workplace accomplishments. Use a checklist, if necessary, to ensure that you are thanking each person frequently and sincerely for their hard work. With four generations in the workplace, use all avenues—email, texts, digital message boards, “shout-outs” verbally in formal gatherings and even hand-written notes. Simply ask which they prefer so your message is received.
Do Use The Right Tools to Communicate Across Your Team
Many organizations have multiple platforms and programs for various tasks—perhaps, far too many! Allow your team to establish norms so they know where and how to reach you and each other quickly and where and how to capture work where several are contributing concurrently. Insist, however, that personal interaction—audio and video calls, plus in-person meetings when able—will be an integral part. Someone who only interacts via words in a program will quickly slip into obscurity, and the team must work hard to draw the most recluse out of their shell to be an effective member of the team.
Learn More With The Center For Leadership Studies
Leaders in companies the world over are winning the battle to facilitate clear communication and consistent engagement in their global and remote teams. We trust that each don’t, answered by a do, will propel you to more effective leadership and engagement of remote teams.
Interested in learning more? Learn how Remote Leadership empowers leaders to improve communication, build trust and foster collaboration across their remote workforce!
1 Hybrid work. Gallup. www.gallup.com/401384/indicator-hybrid-work.aspx. Accessed September 25, 2023.