Managing a distributed workforce requires an armoury of skills from effective communication and team engagement, to fostering productivity and performance.
Leading a remote team can be a tough gig for any manager, but leading one through a global pandemic? Now that’s another challenge. And with a study by Pew Research Center in December 2020 showing that 54 per cent of employees will still want to work from home post-pandemic, it’s a situation that’s not likely to change soon.
The good news is that many companies reported a rise in productivity during the third quarter of 2020 – perhaps demonstrating that, with the right remote leadership, employees can blossom during tough times. With this in mind, we’ve collated some expert tips below for leading your team from anywhere.
Create time for creativity
As a leader, it’s important to allow your team time to brainstorm ideas. In a recent Forbes article, Prithwiraj Choudhury, a Lumry Family Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that managers pose questions or topics in work channels such as Slack, where teams can germinate ideas and share in their own time “without the pressure to present polished work”. It’s proven that scheduling in brainstorming sessions between colleagues, and having a place to collect these ideas can allow concepts to develop.
Sync your tech
“Leaders need to set clear rules so that all employees are using exactly the same technology channels,” says Alex Hirst, co-founder of The Hoxby Collective, in an article in the Daily Telegraph. “We set rules around our use of technology. For example, we never email each other and we always use G-Meet for video calls. That way, everyone knows where they stand and there is a foundation created for effective communication,” he adds.
Be transparent with decisions
Logging team decisions in a shared document can save time and avoid confusion. “Writing down which decisions were made, and when, helps not only remote workers but also those in other timezones to understand why and what the plan is, asynchronously,’ says Forbes Council member, Danielle Royston. Royston suggests also including the alternatives that were considered and why they were not selected. “When you can articulate how a decision was made, it helps everyone to align and focus on the task at hand,” she says.
Trust your team
Some companies encourage a culture of micro-management with leaders constantly checking in on their teams – but this does nothing for staff morale. Instead, trust your team and focus on the outcome rather than time at the desk. “Employees perform better when managers help them handle their workloads and prioritise their efforts rather than micro-managing them,” says Chris Kruse, technical services manager at GFI Digital in the Kansas City Business Journal. “Plus, recognising someone for their performance gives them a virtual stand-in for office interactions.”
Go public with your appreciation
When it comes to appreciating your team, it’s time to go big or go home. Aliza Knox, former tech exec for Google, Twitter and Cloudfare, and Woman of the Year in IT Asia 2020, suggests using public acknowledgement in an article for Forbes magazine. “Don’t just let your employees know how much you appreciate their efforts. Let everyone in the company know, too, particularly their higher-ups.”
A key motivator adopted by successful business leaders is the ability to recognise all efforts by their team, whether with a shout-out at meetings or an acknowledgement in a group email or chat.
What are your experiences of leading a dispersed team? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org