Nowadays it’s becoming more popular to work remotely, which means that your leadership over your team now happens virtually. Whether an onsite manager works with remote employees or the leaders work remotely themselves, leading people you don’t see face to face every day requires a unique skill set. A good sense of communication is paramount, especially when you’re working across time zones and everyone is interacting from behind their screens
Training leaders to manage their remote workers effectively is vital to the success of any remote work programme. As a remote leader, your focus needs to be managed based on results and processes rather than FaceTime, which is often relied upon in traditional office settings.
Here’s some advice on developing managers who work effectively with dispersed teams:
Teach them proactive communication
A proactive communication practice amongst teams and colleagues is one of the most useful areas of remote leadership training.
Proactive communication – taking the initiative to reach out when an idea, question or challenge comes up, rather than waiting to be asked or waiting for a scheduled meeting – can help to develop a more transparent, open management process, as well as build trust and prevent problems from going unnoticed.
It's exponentially harder for a remote leader to manage a team, compared with a leader who is managing a team in person. To manage a team from a remote location, it's best to make a strong effort to keep in touch with that employee.
Proactive communication can work with regular and individual meetings that address specific questions and help solve problems. It’s important that it’s not just a laundry list of updates and you need to set guidelines so all team members know which communication method to use in certain circumstances.
Do not use email to convey ‘feelings’ or any important updates that might invite a lot of follow-up questions. Remote leaders must also learn to communicate the ‘why’ of important tasks and projects more than the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’. When the leader is not accessible, any hard-working adults can fill in the blank of the 'what,' 'when' and 'how' when they know the 'why'.
Set Clear Expectations
As with anything in your business, it’s critical that you set clear expectations, both for yourself and the leaders who are still learning. If people don’t understand or misunderstand requirements and tasks, setting things straight on the go could mean a loss of hours, or even days, of work. That could set back the entire team and lead to conflicts and frustration. Avoid any potential damage by making sure your team knows exactly what is expected of them. Set team goals and constantly follow their progress or appoint a team leader to keep track and manage everyone closely.
Help leaders translate the company culture
A big piece of the puzzle is training leaders to translate the company’s culture for their remote team members. Creating a culture that fosters true leadership is difficult enough to do when you’re in the same office as someone, so naturally it’s even more difficult when the team is working remotely.
You need to assess how to properly translate the best traditional office elements and activities to a virtual space, such as regularly engage with your employees in casual conversations - just as if you were in the physical office.
Bring people together
Remote leaders should travel to the company’s headquarters to attend a meeting, whether it’s once a month, once a quarter, or twice a year. This way they can interact with the rest of the team in person and receive sufficient skills training. Also, remote leaders should use common conference (industry or internal training) to increase face-to-face opportunities.
Leadership training needs to focus on best practices, regardless of whether the leader is remote or onsite. Successful leaders focus on communication and culture, challenge and empower their team members, focus on short- and long-term strategy, and the list can go on.
Remote leadership training and courses
Remote leadership requires special skills and there is a selection of leadership and training courses you can take that will teach you how to best manage employees remotely, and how to address any common issues that will arise.
One size does not fill all when it comes to leadership development. Make sure your new remote team of leaders is not only equipped with what they need to manage but are able to stay on track and thrive in their new remote environment.