Are the challenges of leading remote teams unique?
What kind of leadership does it take to lead remote teams well?
Leadership in any context is challenging. So, what are the key challenges associated with remote leadership? What strategies are effective, and what type of leaders succeed most often in these environments?
It’s interesting to note that challenges leading a remote team aren’t necessarily unique — but they do show up as a bit disorienting, feeling like they take more time, and possibly more complex in ways uncommon in shared workspaces.
Here is our view of the second key challenge, Focus & Prioritising, and some best practice for leaders of remote teams:
Focus & Priorities:
- What’s the new ‘normal’ or priority expectation is often left poorly defined or unclear when leading remote teams. Without these clearly defined expectations, the work that needs to be done to achieve these objectives constantly reiterated, repeated, clarified and measured, mean that teams may struggle to see what the new ‘normal’ is.
- As a leader, you can see immediately the bigger picture around what needs to be done – however don’t underestimate how difficult this may be for people who ‘normally’ focus mostly on their own particular role rather than the whole process.
- How to prioritise what’s next, not having your colleague at the desk to discuss appropriate solutions and decisions, conflict resolution, requesting holidays, process of documentation, and even understanding your goal or purpose, can be real challenges.
- Because remote teams don’t share a physical space, it’s easy to leave a lot of questions and expectations unanswered. So, clearly establish meeting arrangements as soon as you can (when, where, how, why).
- Ensure these meetings are 2-way to promote questions, and make it clear you expect conversation during the meeting with the team – it’s not all about you talking ‘at’ them. Try to have a ‘whole’ team meeting as soon as possible, to discuss and agree what the ‘new norm’ process will be.
- It’s important not to impose ‘leader’s preference’ on the team, but instead try to establish alternative ways that ensures input from everyone – this could be via surveys, emails, votes etc.
- Lacking spontaneous workplace chat, informal learning and visible signs that naturally happen in a shared space, means as a leader you have to over-communicate the messages you need your team to hear, and those which are important to the business, as well as employ super human hearing and empathetic questioning techniques to properly understand what your team are thinking and feeling.
- Personal preferences around communication and internal customer service will determine how different team members prefer to provide and receive information. These differing preferences should be considered by a leader, to engage with and gain the maximum from each team member – remember, one size does not fit all.
- Differences must be acknowledged and understood before they can be adjusted. So how much do you understand about your individual team members preferences?
- Using preference identifying tools such as DISC, Social Styles Assessment etc can quickly help leaders to identify individual preferences and adapt their own communication style to get the most out of their teams
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All the best
Lindsey & Charlotte