Previously, I talked about being a leader, even when you are not the boss. I believe a good leader is a person that people want to follow. They are honest and have a high level of integrity. These traits are important to get people to buy into the strategy and the journey. A leader has a clear vision, and a path to get there. They inspire others and make sure everyone knows their importance to achieve the vision. As a result, they must have great communication skills. These are the people that lead by example, that people gravitate towards.
So, now the question is how do you be a great leader with a remote workforce? Given the changes created with COVID-19 and working remote, how does a leader continue to be successful? From what I have observed, communication and availability are key ingredients. Managing remotely changes the dynamic of leadership and requires an additional set of skills.
The best leaders engage remote employees in frequent and authentic conversation. They put time aside to make sure they are communicating frequently and effectively. They dig for real information by asking direct questions including “What’s frustrating you? or What’s getting in your way?” They also ask the very simple, but important question of “How are you doing?” Some remote leaders may set aside time for virtual team coffees and social conversations. No matter what method is chosen, being mindful to communicate often and openly is very important. Be transparent.
Leaders should also prioritize the development of clear boundaries and guidelines. At its most basic level, this involves assisting employees in defining their availability. Clearly define when the employee will be working. What is the best way to reach the employee at home. If additional personal challenges such as childcare and home schooling are involved, how will the employee address these challenges.
The typical leadership characteristics still apply. A good leader will still need to understand team dynamics. He or she needs to create and communicate a clear vision. Provide coaching and mentorship when needed. One must understand the implications and effective use of technology. These are all still very important.
They require an awareness of how distance and a lack of frequent physical interaction impact how a team works together. When you’re not together, how do you read the signs of team interactions? Do your teams continue to work effectively? This goes back to frequent and open communications. One needs to really listen to what people are saying and how they say it. Providing and using technology effectively to communicate with the team and each other is critical. Sending people remote to work is not enough. You must provide them the tools they need to work remote. In addition, being a great communicator around a conference table isn’t the same as delivering an effective webinar. It is every bit as critical wherever one is communicating.
I saw a quote the other day that I truly believe. “Leadership is not about being the best. Leadership is about making everyone else better.“