Here at the Kevin Eikenberry Group we spend a lot of time helping leaders of all kinds in all sorts of work situations. One of the most prevalent of those situations is someone leading a remote, or partially remote, team – a team where at least some of the members work at a location remote from the others and/or remote from their boss. We do this work under the banner of The Remote Leadership Institute and from that work, led by Wayne Turmel, we continue to research best practices and offer a variety of learning experiences to help leaders in those situations.
On top of that, I have been leading a remote team myself for several years.
Here is what we know: while there are important differences in leading a team that is remote from you compared to having everyone down the hall (or at least in the same zip code), there is far more that is the same than is different. So while we spend much time helping leaders with the important nuanced differences that lead to success with remote team members, today I want to focus on some things that don’t change regardless of where your team members are located.
People want to know you.
People want to follow people that they know, like and trust. The most successful leaders work to build relationships with those they lead. The goal isn’t to be liked as much as it is to be likeable. Remember trust will be built as relationship is built. Make relationship building a cornerstone of your work as a leader.
People want to know where they are going.
As a leader, hopefully you know where you are headed and where you want to point your team (if not, that is job one). Assuming you do, you must make sure that everyone else knows what that destination is. Make it clear. Create mutual understanding of the destination. Once people know where they are headed, they make more informed decisions, and can more confidently act in ways that move them towards that outcome. Communicate and remind people of the desired destination – the object of their efforts.
People want meaning in their work.
Where we are going is important to know – but when we know why we are going there we will work harder and smarter, be more disciplined and focused and have the will to overcome the inevitable challenges that we face. The best leaders know that human beings crave a sense of meaning and purpose – and then do what they can to help people find that meaning in their daily work.
People want to know where they stand.
Yes, they want to know where they stand with you, but more to the point; they want to know how they are doing in their work. In other words, they want feedback. Let’s put the “no news is good news” myth to bed for good. As a leader, we need to help people know what is going well, and what isn’t. Are you giving people the feedback they need to succeed?
People want the chance to grow and improve.
This one is a corollary to the last one. Feedback on past performance is important, but people also need to know what they can do now (and next) to reach their goals, hit their expectations and grow and improve. Beyond that as leaders we need to give people opportunities to try new things, the learning experiences to build new skills and the belief that they will succeed.
Even in these similarities, you likely see the need for the nuanced differences with your remote team members. If so, and if you would like to explore those differences for yourself or other leaders in your organization, please visit The Remote Leadership Institute for resources and ideas to help you while leading remotely.