Four ways you can improve your remote leadership

Posted 29 June 2021 by
Kevin Wood

Remote leadership is, understandably, a trending topic right now. Here are four things leaders can do to be more effective when leading teams remotely.

Don’t doubt your team 

“How do I know my team members are actually working when they’re at home?” 

This has been a contention for managers ever since anyone worked from home. But if a team leader is still asking this question, especially now that remote working is unavoidable, it’s going to cause unnecessary stress. It might even indicate that trust is an issue. 

The mantra for 2021 is ‘people first’. Leaders need to focus on their team and their output, not where their people are or exactly when they’re working. What matters is if the team is getting the work done. Is the work good? Is everyone OK? If so, trust your team and give them the benefit of the doubt. 

One thing a leader can do is give team members more flexibility in how they structure their day. At home, everyone’s workplace is unique (and often less than optimal), unlike the office. The work-home overlap defies separation. 

So, invite workers to create the routines that work best for them. Talk it through with them. Ask them how they want to do this. It shows you care and you’re listening. 

And if you worry that workers will abandon schedules and not do anything, read this short Management Today article and note the point about structure. 

Check your communication style

Some articles on remote working say that you need to communicate more to be an effective remote leader. Over-communication is better.

Is it? 

In general, more communication probably is better than less. But simply sending more updates or scheduling more catch-ups isn’t the whole story.  

If your communication style doesn’t work for the receiver, sending more messages in that same style will cause them stress or irritation. Worse, they’ll disengage. Over-communication can easily become overload, especially when we’re so reliant on our screens. Email is especially prone to misinterpretation.

Given all this, the way you communicate is critical. Get to know your style and others’ styles, then adapt your communications so they suit the recipient. Do they want a catch-up every day or every week? What information do they best respond to in an email? 

And remember not to focus solely on work or tasks every time. Without social contact in the workplace, people have communications needs that aren’t being met. Tune in to this possibility. 

Ask your people how they want to be communicated with. For an insight into how personality type affects communication style, see our Get More from Email quick guide.

Make sure you are OK

No leader can support a team properly if they themselves are struggling with remote working. Leaders aren’t immune from the challenges of change and working from home. 

Using a personality assessment like the MBTI assessment gives you a clear picture of your strengths, development areas, and likely stress triggers. When you understand how you function, you’re in a position to take care of your well-being. 

And remember, your remote working style might be different from your usual working style. 

These differences might be the source of more recent challenges or tensions. The same applies to your team members, too. 

Work with a colleague to learn how to flex

The real power of self-awareness comes when you can ‘flex’ (i.e., use your less preferred behaviors) so you’re in tune with other people and their personality types. If you’re knowledgeable about personality types and your colleagues aren’t, then it’s on you to use what you know and potentially adapt to their style. How do you get started?

Here’s a great tip from Michael Segovia, one of our Senior Consultants. He recommends practicing with another leader or manager who has a different personality type. 

“Learning about and appreciating the differences in others by choosing someone at a similar managerial level who is different from you, in terms of personality type, is a great way to learn how to flex,” he says. 

“Anyone can be a great leader as long as they learn how to flex their leadership style to the people they lead.”  

This list isn’t exhaustive, far from it. It’s just a few pointers to get you started. 
But if there’s one area of common agreement about remote leadership, it’s probably this: put your people first. Ask how they are and how they think they’ll work best. 

See also:
Show your feeling side—and be a better leader in 2021