This guest post is by Monica Wofford, a leadership development expert who coaches executives and provides training for managers who’ve been promoted but not prepared. She is the author of “Make Difficult People Disappear” and “Contagious Leadership.” For more information, she may be reached at ContagiousCompanies.com.
Studies find that the majority of employees are now spending at least some time working from home, and that number is on the rise. Leading remote teams effectively comes with special challenges. Employees still need guidance, direction, recognition, and development from their leader. Can you provide these things in ways that adapt to the virtual world?
Here are three tips to improve your skills at leading remote teams.
- Build rapport over WiFi. We may work from afar but we’re always connected. Using video calls and conferencing to give you the face time you need to connect. In our technology-rich world, face time is still doable; you just have to schedule it and dial into a number to be in the “same place at the same time.”
- Be more specific. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, can you take care of this?”, when you’re pointing to the pile in front of the person. It’s quite different when an employee can’t see what you’re referring to. Virtual employees need more clarity and written instructions, as well as expectations for the desired outcome. The good news is when using e-mail to share instructions, the act of writing it out forces you to think in more detail than being verbally vague.
- Mind your time. Leaders generally underestimate the time it takes to complete a task, both their own and the ones they assign. If you’re not careful, hours will pass before you connect with a team member in another city or state. Those hours can turn into days and panicked follow-up when you realize a deadline’s passed. Not seeing the team doesn’t mean you can forget they exist. Schedule regular calls or touch base sessions to stay connected. Don’t let the distance gap turn into a communication chasm.
Learn to lead from a distance with the tools that make connections possible and motivation manageable.