Making your leadership work for your remote team
Working within the four walls of an office used to be a given – after all, that’s where the files would be kept, where the phones were and where the rest of your team was! The commute to the office used to be considered part and parcel of working but now, technology has turned everything on its head.
According to a study by Flexjobs, 82% of employees say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options and it seems that employers are beginning to embrace this desire – a study by International Workplace Group found that 53% of workers were spending at least half of the week working remotely. Advances in technology means that this new way of working is possible but what does it mean for leadership?
The challenges of a remote workplace
Most challenges faced by teams where some members are working remotely are simply caused by proximity. Traditionally, teams work closely together geographically – a fellow team member being just up the hallway is much less of a hurdle than someone being a few kilometres away at their home or even working from another country.
How can leaders stay connected with their team and support them? It’s harder to check in on your team when they’re physically far away. How do leaders instill vision and values? How can leaders make sure they’re aware of any issues that might arise in the remote workplace?
Many teams are made up of some individuals who work from a brick and mortar office and others who work remotely. Even those that work remotely may be coming in a day or two a week. Managers run the risk of putting more time into the employees who are in the office and forgetting to invest in those working further away. The opposite can also be true – managers may overcompensate to make sure their remote workers are taken care of and forget to effectively lead those who are right in front of them.
How can leaders rise to face these challenges?
Fostering great relationships – Regardless of whether they work in the same room or in separate countries, all team members need to have good relationships with their managers and strong communications skills. There is a lot of trust involved in working remotely – leaders need to be able to trust their people and individual team members need to be able to trust their managers. In fact, confidence in senior leadership is cited by ModernSurvey to be one of the strongest drivers of engagement, so it’s important to be building on these relationships.
Setting expectations – Being left to your own devices can be very empowering but it can also be a danger zone for time-wasting or simply not prioritising quite right. It’s important that leaders set clear expectations from the get-go so that all employees working remotely know exactly what’s expected of them. When do they need to be available to the rest of the team? When should they be available to clients? What will the milestones be to keep individuals accountable and ensure work is getting done? How often should leaders meet one-to-one with team members and how often should team members commit to face-to-face meetings?
Clearly setting out the values of your organisation and making sure all employees are aligned with your mission is also extremely important. According to IBM, 80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organisation and, after all, more engaged employees are more productive, no matter where they’re working from.
Listening and questioning – the only way any leader will ever find out what challenges their remote team members are facing is by asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work – in a traditional office space, it’s easier to hear the voice of your team members but when some or all of your team is working remotely, real, conscientious effort needs to be put into talking to and listening to what your team has to say.
At the heart of it, leading a remote team comes with ups and downs, just like leading a team that you get to see in the office every day. Your team still needs the same things – to be trusted, to have clear expectations and to be listened to – it can just take more effort to make sure you stay on top of providing great leadership. Be deliberate in the way you lead you team – no matter where they might be working from.
If you’re ready to transform the way you lead your team, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.