Did your team go remote because of the pandemic? If not, are you considering taking your team online? The decision and maintenance of remote work can appear challenging, causing leaders to fear the unknown. Managing a virtual team is challenging, but it doesn’t mean it’s more challenging than leading an on-site team. It’s just different.
A great remote leader needs to have a heightened awareness of what’s happening within his or her organization remotely, which includes being transparent, being patient and listening ensure that everyone is aware of updated processes, new technologies and ideas on the horizon.
During such uncertain times, remote work has undoubtedly gone mainstream, and it shows no signs of slowing down. With 82% of employers preparing to allow their employees to work from home permanently, at least for some of the time, more leaders are seeing it as a new alternative.
The rules of engagement are much different leading in a work-from-home environment, and leaders should consider that how they led in the office won’t translate exactly to how they will lead virtually. With that in mind, here are four mistakes remote leaders make and tips on how to excel with a distributed team.
1. Providing Consistent Feedback
Continuous feedback is critical not only to your team’s growth but also to your organization’s financial health. The practice of consistent feedback allows for accountability, clarity and transparency so small issues don’t manifest into more significant problems.
Are you conducting monthly or quarterly check-ins? Consider checking in with your team weekly. It’s not necessary to log onto Zoom for every check-in, but touching base weekly gives leaders space to give constructive, consistent and tangible critique and for team members to give meaningful feedback as well. This practice is a two-way street that must be traveled daily for optimal success.
2. Knowing When to Zoom
Whether you’ve been remote for a decade or just since the onset of the pandemic, Zoom fatigue has likely set in.
Remote work has advanced in such a short period of time. We’re now approaching the nine-month mark since the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., and work conditions have changed what it means to “flex” one’s schedule, ushering in the spirit of “overdoing virtual meetings.”
It can be a tricky space to navigate when considering productivity and staying on top of what is happening with people you don’t see every day. Becoming more intentional about why you are meeting can help reduce “over-Zooming.” Reducing virtual interactions by alternating virtual one-on-ones with phone calls is an impactful but straightforward way to break up the monotony of what has become Zoom culture.
Another important consideration is “water-cooler talk.” By habit, many teams are used to logging into calls and getting down to business immediately. While time is of the essence, it’s essential to catch up and check in before work happens. Being “always on” can become exhausting for your team members, so being creative and thinking of new ways to connect can prevent burnout and anxiety and foster a more transparent, collaborative and remote culture for everyone.
3. Defining Ideal Communication
A common pain point in the workplace is often centered around the deep divide between employees and management. Senior leaders do have a bit to contend with, and being readily accessible can become a struggle.
Thanks to technology, organizations have a plethora of ways to communicate with their team members. However, even with project management tools, chat platforms, virtual conferencing, and email and in-person meetings (socially distanced and personal protective equipment required), information can still become lost. Information inequality can occur rapidly, and for many organizations, it can feel like a horrible game of telephone. Everyone knows that when there is a lack of clarity, problems ensue.
Identifying the most effective communication solution will keep team members up to date on what’s happening with their team, their department and the company as a whole. Incorporating radical transparency enables leaders to deliver clear, action-oriented communication.
Incorporating weekly (or bi-weekly, depending on your organization) virtual meetings with your team is vital. With this method, everyone becomes clear on objectives, goals and metrics, providing security for team members and a positive shift for the organization.
4. Understanding How to Handle Conflict Virtually
Conflict is normal and healthy, and opposition in a remote work setting often begins for the same reasons disagreements arise in a traditional office space. Whether it’s stress, a personality clash, overworking, or a difference of opinions and values, it happens.
Establishing rules on conflict resolution with new hires up front, during the onboarding process can make all the difference. Implementing “no gossip” policies and confronting healthy and unhealthy conflict head-on can stop an issue dead in its tracks, too.
Remember, conflict arises for a reason. When it’s healthy, conflict allows you to identify areas of your team that aren’t working well. It can be uncomfortable and a bit disruptive, but positive changes often occur due to friction. When conflict is negative, however, it’s important to address and resolve it immediately. Failure to do so can cause the team to become disjointed.
Remember, Knowledge Is Power
Lastly, don’t forget to lean into resources to help you grow. Often, the biggest mistake a leader can make is failing to learn something new. Podcasts, thought leadership materials and other digital resources are paramount in sharpening your ax and being a student of life.
The bottom line? The more you know, the more you grow. It may seem rudimentary, but leaders must have a willingness to learn and grow in their own professional development to help their team (whether on site or remote) grow professionally as well.