Leading from a distance: Five strategies to improve leadership in your remote business
Lisa Davidson is a writer and Account Manager at Thought-Horizon. Joanna Gerber is an intern at Thought-Horizon and a student at Wesleyan University.
Over the past year and a half, we all had to learn how to segue from the daily bustle and chatter of the office into the quieter, more isolated world of remote work. And some businesses aren’t planning to go back to their old ways.
Why should they? Remote work has plenty of benefits: it not only saves money and time, but often also provides a much more productive and efficient environment.
However, it can be challenging for team leaders to provide their best leadership and communication when their team members are scattered around the country, or even the world. While it can be tricky to manage a remote team, there are some foolproof ways to make your leadership and your entire team stronger.
Set up regular meetings with clients and coworkers
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to create consistent face-to-face interaction. With resources like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, there’s no excuse not to set up meetings on a regular basis. Emails can’t always match the clarity and interpersonal connection that a video call can achieve; these visual meeting help simulate an in-person work environment and allow you to give clearer directions, more thorough answers and generally develop stronger relationships with the people on your team.
At the same time, virtual meetings can be tiring, and take away valuable time spent working on independent tasks. It’s crucial to balance interactive sessions and know what can be summarized more quickly in an email or text.
Make yourself accessible
One of the most difficult things about remote work is the time lag between when someone asks a question and when they finally get a response. Team members can no longer simply get up from their desks and walk over to yours. Now they need to send a text, an email or a Slack message and wait until they hear back.
Don’t leave them waiting. Set clear boundaries explaining when you will be on the clock and plan to take your breaks. If you are on the clock, make sure your team can easily and promptly reach you through whatever means of communication your business uses. The quicker you respond, the more efficient your team members
Send out a weekly email with company updates
Even before remote work became the norm, there’s a good chance you were sending out a weekly company email. Now, that’s more important than ever. People can’t hear about that week’s mishaps or exciting deals through the grapevine anymore. Assume that all of your coworkers’ knowledge is coming from this email. Make sure people know what’s happening in the company, from new clients to system updates to fresh ideas for marketing.
Keeping your team in the loop helps to create a sense of company unity. When people are aware of updates and projects that they aren’t personally working on, they feel more in touch with the company as a whole. Instead of focusing only on themselves, staying up to date with all of the company’s projects creates a cohesive team in which employees are enthusiastic and prepared to help each other out.
Set up office hours
Some leaders have set aside designated time each week for “office hours.” An office hour is a scheduled period of time where they sit in the Zoom room with no particular agenda, and people come and go as they please. This method is a great way to get to know your team more personally. Whether they come in with work-related questions or just for a friendly chat, they can approach you without feeling like they’re bothering you or wasting your time, since this time is already set aside just for them.
Don’t lose your sense of humor…
… or your empathy or your penchant for giving advice. Basically, don’t lose whatever makes you who you are. When so much of today’s workplace communication is watered down to email and messaging, it’s easy to get sucked into formalities that just aren’t you. Don’t forget your true voice. Your employees will have a much easier time trusting you and being willing to ask questions if they see your genuine personality on the other side of an email.
Working from home takes some getting used to, but it can make everyone’s lives easier when done well. It’s essential to create as much personal interaction as possible in order to develop strong, lasting relationships with your team members.
Have you found new ways to improve your leadership skills and connect with team members since working from home? Share your strategies with us in the comments! We’d love to hear about your experiences.