Being a leader is hard — however, being a remote leader is a whole other thing entirely.
Leaders around the world are forced to shift to a new way of leading and working due to the pandemic. They need to shift processes, workflows, retrain their team on new technology as almost every aspect of their work has now become digitized.
A remote leadership report found that 77% of leaders have never had the experience of managing a fully remote team before the pandemic and 89% had never managed a partially remote team.
There are many great leaders out there who feel like they are now barely managing, are left questioning every decision they make, and longing to go back to how things once were. You are not alone.
Aside from that, your team members are also experiencing their own challenges due to the shift to remote working.
Here are some of the most common challenges to remote leadership.
The remote work environment can be lonely, and it’s easy for people to forget about each other when they are not in the same room. You might find it hard to check in with your team members on a regular basis and this might lead to miscommunication and difficulties in understanding what your team actually needs.
Have you ever wanted to avoid someone at the office? Online working makes it easier to avoid any sort of negative interaction with your coworkers. In a more transactional environment, it becomes easier to not approach someone you do not need, as a result, silos develop quickly. This can be hard to break, even after returning to the office. In this situation, you as the leader have an integral role breaking up this silo mentality which can cause inefficiencies within your team.
Communication issues & lack of involvement
It can be hard for leaders to keep up with their teams while working remotely. There are fewer day-to-day cues and remote communication barriers that make hands-on involvement difficult. This lack of collaboration, involvement, and supervision can decrease trust and rapport among coworkers and leaders.
Being a leader is already a tough enough task, but when you add your children, pets, noisy neighbors, and other distractions into the mix, you will be struggling just to focus on tackling the simplest tasks. As a result, you may not be performing at your best and giving the team your full attention — which might cause problems in the long run.
7 Remote Leading Tips
If you find yourself being able to relate to these remote leading challenges, then that is a good thing. These issues can be mitigated and solved with a proper strategy. Now that you have a better understanding of the situation and challenges, here are 5 tips that can help you overcome the challenges of remote leadership in order to help you become a better remote leader for your team.
- Adapt your mindset
The very first thing you need to do is accept that leading remotely means leading differently. Although there are some parts of leadership that may stay the same, there are a lot of things that you need to change in order to ensure that you become an effective remote leader.
- Maintain a connection
Like what we have mentioned above, remote leadership and remote work is often associated with social isolation. Your team members might find it difficult to feel like they belong, might be unwilling to collaborate and feel lonely in general.
As a way to solve this, make sure that you schedule group chats or a lunch session as a way to touch base with your team members frequently. Aside from ensuring that you are getting regular updates, this will also help establish a sense of belonging and improve the trust level with your team members.
Note: It will be better if you can ask everyone to turn on their cameras during these sessions, as it can help you gauge their expressions, gestures, and reactions.
- Lead with compassion
Even though it comes with its own myriad of benefits, remote working has its downside: loneliness and longer working hours. In order to promote a healthy work-life balance for your team, you need to ensure that you do regular mental health check-ins. Be sure to ask your team how they are actually feeling, if they are facing any issues, and if there is anything you can do to support them.
Aside from that, ask your team what kind of support would help them the most. Some people might want to seek access to online counselors, some might prefer a subscription to applications for meditation, and others might just look for a “buddy” to have a coffee with every now and then.
- Overcommunicate for clarity
Remote working can lead to issues relating to communication and attention. Emails can easily be misinterpreted, video calls can be unclear due to connectivity issues, and you can find it harder to read implied messages as you cannot fully read body language and gestures.
That is why you need to ensure to overcommunicate your message through different channels. Instead of just mentioning important points, present your points visually during a video conference, and share a quick summary on an email.
During the call, take the time to ask questions, get your team to engage with you, and mention their names as much as possible — this will ensure that they are on the same page and help make the session feel more personal.
- Trust your team
Due to the distance and minimal interaction, some leaders will try to check in so frequently on their team members that it hurts their team’s productivity and not to mention, their trust. In short, they become micromanagers.
What you need to do instead is make sure that you have hired the right person that you can trust to do the job well. Be there when help and support is needed, but give your team the space to do what you hired them to do. It is all about putting the right people in the right positions.
- Establish a coaching culture
Remote working provides a great opportunity for leaders to establish a learning mindset and coaching culture within their team. Instead of merely focusing on managing their tasks, it is time for you to help your team develop their skills and improve their behavior through coaching.
Start by helping your team set their goals. What kind of skills do they want to master? What goals do they want to achieve? Then help them by asking them guided questions that will encourage them to think about they need to do and find solutions on their own should they encounter any barriers.
Doing this will leave you with self-starters who feel empowered to take initiative.This will result in high-performing individuals with a learning mindset who pursue continuous improvement, and are satisfied with their work.
- Observe and ask for feedback
To help you determine what is working and what is not, be sure to pay close attention to your team so you can pick up any behavioral or productivity changes. Try to address professional and personal problems of the team promptly and offer your support.
Aside from observation, be proactive in asking questions and feedback (or feedforward) from your team members as well. Try to ask for specific feedback on current workflows, processes, and the way you lead during this remote working experience. Take note of their suggestions, try to improve those areas accordingly, and get someone to follow you up on your progress so you will not lose sight of your goal.
Related read: Intentional Learning: The Key To Mastering New Skills
Embracing the shift
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