The new normal of remote leading

Leadership can be tricky at the best of times, but the ability to keep a team productive, disciplined and engaged over the next few weeks in lockdown, will prove to be challenging for even the most experienced leaders among us.

The fundamentals of guiding your team through a difficult time in business may require the same leadership approach regardless of location. However, the challenge comes in when you have to lead from a physical distance.

This immediately rules out one-on-one contact. Things like a quick meeting, a 5-minute catch-up at the water cooler, or a formal performance review to evaluate how results are tracking are impossible. Therefore, remote leadership has to be tackled as something that requires a new approach to leading, keeping your employees as productive as possible and maintaining that sense of being a crucial part of that bigger picture. The new normal.

Schedule outcome-based Virtual Team Meetings

During this time of remote working, running effective team meetings will be your success or failure. This is your opportunity, as an effective leader, to ensure your team members are engaged, motivated and aligned your company’s overall strategy.

Set a time bi-weekly for a Zoom/Skype call, scheduled at a time that is convenient for the whole team to attend. Make sure you take the time on these catch-ups to allow for personal updates – how are they coping, how are their families, what are their frustrations with the current situation? The next focus should move quickly into updates from each team member – limit this update to just three or four things:

  1. Achievements for the past week that will proactively aid the company
  2. An update on their “project” or tasks for the week ahead
  3. Where they need assistance or roadblocks removed in order to achieve their weekly objective
  4. If there is isn’t enough work for your team, due to the current environment, use these meetings as an opportunity to develop the skills of your team in areas they currently do not possess

Show Authentic Appreciation and Care

Be considerate to your team. Each team member will no doubt be under enormous stress due to the uncertainty of what the weeks ahead will bring. Your leadership now is crucial and defining. You won't have the opportunities to show appreciation for the work your team is doing in person. It's essential you show them authentic appreciation in one way or another. We all know that employees who feel appreciated will always do more than what is expected – which is exactly what you want to harness at this time. Take time to show your appreciation and that you genuinely care about them and their contributions. Something as simple as a "thank you" text will go a long way.

Build Trust

Building trust with your staff at a distance starts by realising that you need to have a very strong personal relationship for the work relationship to be effective. The only way to really get things done is to have a clear idea of where each member is at emotionally through developing an informal personal relationship with each other. When you cannot see each other daily, the first channels of input are usually email, phone, and your weekly Skype or Zoom call. For this approach to work from both ends, you need a lot of trust. Remote leadership starts with a leader that really wants to connect with someone at a distance. If that willingness is not there, the process is going to be painful and the results will be disastrous. Investing in trust through building a really personal relationship with your team requires willingness, ability and repeated efforts that go beyond what you could do in the same office building.

There’s no manual on how to be an effective leader at the time of COVID-19. You will no doubt be confronted with many threats from a business standpoint. However, in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, leaders make a huge difference. By staying calm, modeling good work practices, and communicating vision and reassurance, you can become a lighthouse in the middle of a storm.

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