Companies are realizing the untapped potential in hybrid and flexible work structures. Executive leaders are focusing their attention to developing effective leadership skills for an increasingly remote work environment. Nowadays, an executive leader has many options to coordinate communication across large and geographically dispersed teams, and achieving success for a company depends on the soft skills of an effective leader.
Leading remote teams requires paying more attention to communication skills because there are more barriers between members, like interruptions, technical issues and many others. Executive leaders have to provide coaching remotely for their employees, which in many cases requires them to have difficult conversations. In addition, an executive leader is also expected to keep the morale on the team high while delivering results for the company. Managing all these skills through a computer screen can be difficult, but, luckily, there are ways to develop strong remote leadership skills.
Here are six remote leadership skills to help any executive leader become more effective and efficient in remote work environments.
- Establish ground rules for communicating with your team. Flexible work schedules have become more popular for remote workers; however, you can help create some common ground to keep your team on the same page. Develop a structured approach for how your teams stay up to date by selecting business hours, team meeting schedules and proper communication platforms to engage with each other. Clearly define the purpose of each mode of communication. Use video conferencing platforms for weekly team meetings and instant messaging tools like Slack for urgent messages.
- Use a variety of communication tools. There are three popular tools to communicate with your team: video conferencing software, instant messaging platforms and traditional ones such as phone and text messaging. Use video conferencing tools to see visual cues, gestures and expressions like in a real conversation. It can help you share your screen for detailed explanations, reduce feelings of isolation amongst remote team members, allow communication to be more personal or sensitive when needed, and allow socialization for team-building activities. Use instant messaging tools to instantly get in touch with your teammates, anytime and anywhere. Always consider your ground rules, like business hours, when using phone calls and text messages to connect with team members.
- Track your time and avoid micro-managing to boost productivity. The biggest challenge for most remote teams is to stay productive, especially if they are new to the remote work environment. There are several ways to track time on your team by setting project deadlines and using auto-reminders. Check in with your team members regularly to identify any obstacles they face to be more productive and avoid micro-managing them by providing trust. Managing the micro-manager within you will require you to develop more patience and provide space for your team members to do the work. When a team is involved in helping eliminate barriers to success, they will feel included and can learn to allocate their resources better.
- Hold frequent check-ins and one-on-ones with your team. When leading remote teams, it is important to stay on the same page as your remote employees. Be open and understanding of what your remote workers have to say and offer any advice or support that you can. By doing these team check-ins, you can help strengthen communication, reduce isolation, create an honest and open work environment, and improve collaboration within your team.
- Encourage socializing between team members to improve chemistry. For remote workers, isolation can have a huge impact on productivity and motivation. Catch up with your team before a meeting by allowing five to ten minutes for team members to discuss favorite Netflix shows or explore shared interests. For special occasions, you can even host virtual parties by getting food delivered to each remote team member during a video call or encourage the team members to wear a favorite hat or shirt related to a topic of interest.
- Listen and support your team members. It is more difficult to gauge how employees are feeling when you cannot see them in person. Are they adjusting well? Is everything working out fine? Or are they having a hard time? Make sure to practice active listening and focus the conversation on their problems or concerns, and not yours. By practicing active listening, you will be able to recognize the main barriers to productivity and collaboration your team members face. By dealing with these barriers, you can improve teamwork while also creating a healthier and supportive work environment.
As a leader of a remote team, remember that the lack of independence and trust can easily demotivate your remote team by making them feel undervalued. Many of these strategies center on empathy and require executive leaders to step into the shoes of their team members. Recognize the value of trusting your team members and you will find it easier to relax and focus on other tasks. Additionally, displaying trust in your team validates their work and motivates them to do better.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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