It’s easy to let leadership slip when you manage a remote team, but developing a leadership mindset can keep you and your team in high-performance shape.
If you manage a remote team, you already know the benefits and challenges that come with working remotely. What you and your team gain in flexibility, you lose in face time. People can work when they are most efficient and attentive, yet that can make it hard to be “in the office” at the same time.
One of the most challenging aspects, however, is in developing a leadership mindset when it feels like there isn’t anyone to lead. While every team needs leadership, remote companies especially need a strong leader, and your team is looking to you for that leadership.
3 Keys to leading a remote team
Leading a remote team has both similarities and differences with office-based leadership. You’re still responsible to your customers, and you still need to manage your team. But developing a leadership mindset with a remote team means you need to focus on three interconnected aspects of leadership: communication, trust, and outcomes.
Communication is always important in a business relationship, but it’s particularly important to a remote team. There are some great communication tools, like Slack, Zoom, or Trello. Yet even with the video capabilities of some of these tools, text is still the most common form of communication.
What’s lacking in text, however, are the visual and tone cues that give context to the message. For instance, the phrase, “that’s fine” truly needs context. Did you say that with a sigh and an eye roll? Or did you nod your head when you said it?
Think about that for a second, and how both situations mean very different things. Now pare that down to just text. “That’s fine” could mean anything to the recipient.
So in developing a leadership mindset, consider your communication style. It may take more effort on your part to come across the way you want, but that extra effort will benefit your entire team in increased understanding and effectiveness.
Trust is so often the “make it or break it” benchmark for remote leaders. Quite simply, you have to trust the people working with you. Jim Mullaney, CEO, and Founder of Edoc Service, Inc sums it up nicely. ““That whole ‘I’ve got to see you working or I won’t get my money’s worth’ attitude doesn’t work.”
It’s time to let go of the reins and trust your team to do their best work, to meet their goals, and to work in the way that meets their needs. For some of your team, that will mean working late at night. For some, they may put in long days Monday through Thursday, and take most of Friday off.
That isn’t to imply that you can’t have parameters. Big projects still need touchpoints and deadlines. There may be specific protocols around IT security or proprietary information. As a leader, this may mean you have to communicate more frequently with your remote team, or track projects with a little more attention.
You can have those parameters without being overbearing. Trusting your team lets them work without the stress that comes with someone micro-managing them. It gives them the freedom to be creative and discover better ways to complete tasks. Of course, that trust predicated on outcomes.
Ultimately, the test of your leadership is about outcomes. Some outcomes are evident with specific goals: revenue increases, completed projects, new customers, or customer retention, for instance.
Attaining these goals, or others that you deem appropriate, have clear benefits for your company. There are, however, other, less specific outcomes that speak to your effectiveness as a leader. Those outcomes are all about your team.
Is your team happy? Do they feel challenged and fulfilled in their work? Do they take pride in what they produce? More importantly, how can you facilitate that?
Writing for Forbes, Glenn Llopis points out that “Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty.” Is it that simple? Yes. And no.
Too many people think that “listening” means letting someone talk. That’s certainly part of it, but authentic listening requires a thoughtful presence. Offer encouragement and direction when needed, constructive feedback when it’s required, and remember that your team can be remote without feeling removed.
Developing a leadership mindset based on support and coaching improves relationships. It provides motivation to produce focused, competitive work. And it gives your team ownership of their job. The chance of someone “phoning it in” plummets in a mutually respectful and cooperative work relationship.
3 Bonus tips for developing a leadership mindset
1. Keep a positive attitude. Positivity is the first step in possibility.
2. Support your team. Your success depends on your team’s success.
3. Don’t let perfection impede progress. Strive for perfection. Make it your goal. But if you wait for perfection, you may never accomplish anything.
Communication is one of the first tenets of leading a remote team. Sign up for one of our business communication courses and learn to coach your company to the top of the field.
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