Navigating the Three C’s of Effective Remote Leadership

Remote leaders often wonder what the most important skills are for leading virtual team members to drive results and keep them engaged and thriving. Authors Wayne Turmel and Kevin Eikenberry did some of that legwork in “The Long-Distance Team” where they share the “Three C’s” of remote work. We unpack them and provide some of our favorite strategies for you here.

What Are The Three C’s Of Remote Work?


At the crux of any good leadership approach is communication, especially in virtual work environments where you lack the visual cues of nonverbal behavior to assess understanding, frustration or enthusiasm. Try the following:

  • Give complete explanations from the start, leaving nothing to interpretation or presumption. Be straightforward about task expectations, the cadence for check-ins and the elements to be tracked and reported. Connect these with organizational culture and values, which should govern how all work is done.
  • Be consistent with check-ins, steadily laying the foundation for trust and valuing your time with each person. Ask certain critical questions every time:
    • How are you feeling about the workload?
    • What issues are you encountering?
    • What elements do you foresee as possible derailers?
    • How can I best support you?
  • Address any performance issues quickly and transparently, connecting their personal and professional goals with outlined expectations for each task
  • Listen well, summarizing what you hear in your own words to confirm you have heard correctly. Ask questions they may not be asking, but which are necessary for their success
  • Ask for and adapt to a remote team member’s challenges and preferences, such as time zone, workload, cultural holidays, and family responsibilities. These can be hobbies, evening commitments or collecting children from school


With the lion’s share of work now done by, in and through teams, a smooth process for work- and idea-sharing is a must for every team, and is paramount for global teams. Consider the following:

  • Provide guidelines and expectations for the team in the area of collaboration, clearly setting goals for “what good looks like” (WGLL); model it consistently
  • Ensure you have the right digital tools for sharing, communicating and tracking project status. All team members should have the same versions, access, equipment and software to do their work and to work together
  • If a platform is new, or new features are being activated, provide training and a chat where challenges can be shared and resolved among team members (not only by the leader or IT)
  • Share online calendars, especially for teams with members in multiple time zones
  • Utilize video wherever possible:
    • Ask all team members to be on camera for meetings to deepen familiarity and camaraderie. Observing facial expression and body language cues fosters understanding
    • Record meetings and training sessions; store in an accessible location so people can review at their own pace
  • Empower the team to decide how they will share feedback, and how they want to receive it from you. Digital channels in existing programs can be a safe place for everyone to share, respond and contribute to the sharpening of the team


The authors call the third C “Cohesion,” but at The Center for Leadership Studies, we like to think of it as Connection as well. Contemplate adding one of the following to bring your team closer together:

  • Commit to building rapport with each team member and encourage them to do the same. If you have hybrid teams, pair a remote or global worker with a hybrid or onsite counterpart for a time (quarter, half-year, during onboarding, etc.) to expand familiarity and understanding
  • Learn and build upon remote team members’ strengths to assign tasks that motivate and increase connection to the work and end goal
  • Create team-building opportunities that are not time zone restricted, enabling everyone to fully participate:
    • Highs and Lows–team members share one high and one low of the week, month or quarter, which can then be discussed in video calls or on a group channel
    • Achievement Channel–leaders and team members post accomplishments, kudos and praise for each other’s efforts and achievements, on the job (as in surpassing a target) and personal (such as finishing a half-marathon)
    • Team Member Showcase–each team member creates and shares a brief presentation “All About Me,” including elements from both personal and professional life. With permission, these might be recorded and shared internally to familiarize other groups with your team, or in HR’s recruiting, onboarding and retention efforts
    • Scavenger Hunt–each person is given things to search for on the company website or worldwide web. These can be relevant to current priorities, such as organizational changes and new clients, or to personal interests like national sports teams and favorite international cuisine. A larger team can be split into pairs or trios, each earning points for their group, with a worthy prize awarded at hunt’s end
  • Be diligent–if not vigilant!–to acknowledge remote member contributions as much as those you are often with in person. They don’t get the benefit of the hallway chit chat, “Let’s go get some lunch,” or “Nice job!” that can result from a brief hallway encounter. To assist with this, some leaders keep a spreadsheet and take time on Friday afternoons to consider how, when and why they contacted each team member that week.

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Become A Better Remote Leader With The Center For Leadership Studies

While we know these are excellent ideas, it is not advisable to do all of these–not at once. Which one idea in each “C” can you deliberately work into your remote leadership to strengthen your team?

Learn how to develop your remote leadership skills with The Center For Leadership Studies. Contact us today!