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? 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’s our view of the fourth key challenge. Leadership Mindset, and some best practice for leaders of remote teams:
- Many who are leading a remote team for the first time find their default style falls flat, or isn’t as effective as it usually would be. Leading a remote team takes almost everyone out of their comfort zone, at least initially. And as we’ve said before, the impact of how a leader leads, is amplified in a remote situation, for better or worse
- The good news is that leading remote teams can be just like leading any other team. The bad news is that if you’re used to managing by watching what people are doing, you will need a shift in mindset
Learning to let go
- One of the most challenging aspects of leading remotely is trusting that our ‘out of sight’ team members are doing the do, when and how we need it, and doing it well.
- There are lots of ‘Big-Brother-style’ methods that have been tried to track this: monitoring keystrokes on employees’ computers, introducing time-tracking software, having online status changes when employees leave their computers for a certain amount of time.
- These just erode trust and drive all the aspects which are wrong with the ‘control’ style working. If there is a misconception that work only happens when we are sitting at our desk, and an obsession with measuring our work through the hours we spend doing activities that look like ‘work’, then as leaders, our focus is in the wrong place – it’s focusing on methods rather than results and output.
- Switching to a more results-orientated mindset is the first step in successfully (and healthily) managing remote teams.
So, leadership style really matters
Leaders who just want to get stuff done (i.e. “transactional leaders”) will make remote work harder for themselves, individuals, and the team.
However, leaders who demonstrate inspirational or transformational leadership qualities such as creating enthusiasm, loyalty, and trust; capitalising on positive emotions; demonstrating empathy and active listening, are much more effective and successful.
In fact, inspirational and transformational leaders can actually be more effective in a remote environment as compared to a traditional face-to-face environment.
As a leader, if you think leading a remote team sounds easier because you don’t have to deal with “all the personal stuff,” you’re likely going to face a frustrating uphill battle with your team.
Explore opportunities to empower your ‘informal leaders’ those people on the team that support, encourage, and develop the other team members through their own relationships. Because you will likely have less interaction with each person, great remote and F2F leaders understand that informal leaders play an important role filling in gaps you won’t be able to fill singlehandedly.
So, in summary, while leading a remote team could bring complexity into relationships, it also creates great opportunities to draw out the best talent and resources from your team. Remote teams can deliver highly successful work when leaders focus on the changes required to meet the needs of the team and ensure a culture that creates trust, personal connections, clarity, consistency, and shared success.
So, if you’d like to talk to us about these or other Leadership techniques, coaching and training, please contact us:
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All the best
Lindsey & Charlotte