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Building Remote Leadership

Building Remote Leadership

Remote leadership is different, and we have known that for years. However, it was critical however to define roles and responsibilities for a large geography, including international operations. People often failed after being promoted to remotely related roles. They failed to understand the art of how to manage remotely and they sometimes struggled with the cultural diversity that came with such roles. Success at these roles required guidance, mentorship, and coaching.

Before Covid-19 less than 15% of staff in US was working remotely. That part of the staff has pointed out the disadvantages compared to their onsite colleagues regarding performance evaluation, promotions, and career development opportunities. The managers did not do a great job about remote workers. But it did not affect them too much as they could continue to produce results with the on-site staff.

While organizations acknowledged the increasing need of newer generations to work remotely, they were slowly gearing up for a scenario where a part of the staff could work from home for some days every month.

No one was aware about the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes it brought into our routine. Most of the organizations now acknowledge that remote work is here to stay. We would have members in each team, who may be working permanently remote. Some of them may also be working in a different city.

Undeniable benefits of adopting remote work:

  • The cost of an organization could be saved in terms of its infrastructure and travel.

  • The time that individuals save in avoiding the daily commute and the opportunity to hire geographically diverse staff.

Remote leadership should not be the exception anymore, but the norm. Each leader, even the first-time manager, need to have remote leadership skills. The higher we go in the chain, the more the need for remote leadership abilities. Organizations’ success depends on it.

So how do we go about it? How can we make remote leadership readiness at mass scale?

These four key things will go a long way in helping build the culture on remote leadership.

  • Communicate, Communicate & Communicate: When team members are working remotely, they feel that they are disconnected. We must make sure that leaders communicate frequently. Regular updates in the form of videos or webinars are preferred by the employees over emails. The communication needs to establish transparency and changes should not come to people as surprises. The communication should also promote dialogue, where employees can engage with the organization though open Q&A sessions and anonymous surveys. Leaders need to make sure that employee feel heard and that employees have a fair chance to contribute to policy matters. Various leaders within the organization need to be coordinated to send out constant messages to their employees.

  • Engage Remote Employees: Out-of-sight should not be out-of-mind. In a hybrid model, many leaders tend to work more closely with people they can see, and they tend to offer more opportunities, guidance, and support to people who connect with them more often. This needs to be amended. We must make sure that leaders treat everyone at par. They need to make sure that remote employees are invited to all discussions and offered equal opportunities to contribute. Recent studies have shown that daily team huddles would be a great way to help everyone aligned with team priorities, stay informed and engaged. This offers the leaders a chance to recognize the good work done by team members and seek inputs from them.

  • Provide Flexibility: Working from home may mean different timing for different people. We must ensure that leaders take time to know the employee preferences. Regular calls need to be fixed at a timeslot, and acceptable to all. The leaders must allow employees to work at their preferred time as long as the targets are being met.

  • Strategic Focus: Daily challenges may overwhelm leaders and derail the team. We must make sure that leaders do not lose focus from strategic targets. This is best achieved through progress dashboards against each of the objectives. These dashboards should be simple, visual, open, and visible to all. The dashboards should also highlight individual accountability.

Effective remote-leadership does not necessarily mean more work; it is just a different way of working.

About the Author

Ms. Manbir Kaur is an Executive and Leadership Coach (Professional Certificated Coach, PCC - ICF). She is also a Conversational Intelligence(C-IQ) Enhanced Skills Practitioner and a key-note speaker.