In today’s dispersed workplace many leaders have team members who are not in the same physical location. Separated in space and time, it’s easy to feel disconnected and misaligned.
Leading is challenging enough when your team is physically present. It requires greater levels of intention and purposefulness when you are apart. How do you maintain relationships and achieve results when you can’t see each other?
Here are a few tips to consider as you lead from a distance:
- Start Successfully – Building and maintaining trust is essential. If possible, periodically spend time together face to face. We also recommend holding a SmartStart conversation. We’ll explore this fabulous relationship accelerator next week and provide an agenda for the meeting.
- Measure Results Not Hours – people need clear goals, deadlines and expectations. It’s easy to walk by someone’s desk and see whether or not they are physically present. It’s a lot more challenging to clearly define what success looks like and communicate the results you expect achieved. Get clear on your expectations, share them with your team and then hold them accountable for the results. Your goal is to set the direction. Then let your team members chart the course. If they don’t end up where they are supposed to end up…ask yourself what destination you gave your team to reach. Maybe your direction setting is to blame rather than the team.
- Proactive Positive Connection – don’t let an out of sight out of mind dynamic emerge; be intentional about maintaining relationships. Set time in your calendar to randomly phone, email, text or IM your team members. Your team needs personal interaction not just endless meetings and emails. Do not let the assignment of work or the correction of mistakes be the only reason to contact someone. If they don’t know how much you care, why will they care how much you know or how much you want to get done?
- Clear the Air Regularly – when you are remote, you miss many communication clues. When you miss critical context it often results in misunderstanding. Make the time to check out your assumptions and the stories you are telling yourself. Before you are too far down the path of frustration with someone, ask for clarification or an opportunity to clear the air.
- Shared Intent is Essential – this is the motherload of remote leadership insights. There was a Navy Captain who spent over a year learning about the USS Will Rogers (SSBN-659), a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine he was selected to captain. Then he was put on a different submarine. Suddenly he was in charge a different type of submarine that he knew little about. To make matters worse, it was the worst performing submarine in the fleet. Watch this ten-minute video on how this brilliant leader shifted his leadership approach from giving orders to giving control to his team and Turned the Ship Around.
Successful remote leadership begins with a Smart Start, giving clear direction, proactively connecting and clearing the air regularly to maintain a positive relationship. The most essential skill is to learn how to lead with shared intent rather than barking orders.