In today's workforce, managers can often be seen as the unsung heroes. Pivotal to an employees performance, motivation and happiness at work, they have the power to influence how engaged employees are. In essence, they drive how people may think, feel and act, therefore impacting the culture of the organisation they work within.
Whether managing teams on site or remotely, leadership can be learnt and built upon. Limitless Leadership™ is based on the premise of learning, unlearning, forever evolving and having an infinite mindset of what could be.
As I write this the global pandemic of COVID-19 continues to force many workplaces into lockdown yet again with employees continuing to work remotely from home in shifts or on a full time basis.
Many of my clients are working remotely, my brother has lost his job, my sister is in isolation as having cancer treatment and my Mum has just had her business shut their doors. Many of those around us are in a state of flux, fear and anxiety. The familiar smiles from the coffee shops are fading, the roads are quiet and there is a strange energy in the air as we remain uncertain of our future, our health, our work and all that we had planned.
In these times of uncertainty, change and disruption, as leaders I believe this is an opportunity to shine and level up in our leadership through new ways of working, thinking and collaborating. With a major pivot, we can all get through this. Personally, we have had the majority of our work postponed and we have been working feverishly around the clock to change HOW we deliver what we do.
Supercharging your leadership is needed now more than ever.
Leading remote teams has fast become the new normal while working during COVID-19 and the accessibility of technology, better working practices has seen a downturn in the need to invest in expensive offices. Some businesses access all they need from a backpack. Whoever would have thought this was even possible?
A report from the UN International Labour organisation found that while many employees are more productive when they work outside of the conventional office, they're also more vulnerable to working longer hours, a more intense work pace, work-home interference, and, in some cases, greater stress.
The challenges are real
Recent research from Soapbox indicated that remote managers experience retention challenges six times higher than on-site managers. They also discovered that remote managers struggle two times more than on-site managers when getting their teams to collaborate. This is due to distance, time zones and other factors.
Another finding was that managers leading remotely found hitting team goals almost twice as hard as when leading onsite. It was also discovered that managers with more than 50% of their team working remotely struggle with providing value to employees in one-on-one catch ups. Another key finding was that 56% of employees surveyed believe that managers need to adapt their skills to lead a remote workforce.
As leaders, we need to step up!
Having worked and led teams remotely for over 20 years I’m highly aware of the challenges above. In conjunction with these challenges, many other barriers block our way to successfully lead teams and businesses remotely.
Here are a few key tips on leading teams and businesses remotely:
Lead with empathy
Empathy requires us to lean in and really feel what other people are going through.
Don’t assume everyone is seeing the world the same way as you. Take the time to be present and have deep and meaningful interactions with your team and peers.
Examples of simple questions you could ask are; How can I support you right now? Would you like me to talk or just listen? Is there anything else I can help you with?
A change of mindset can be a barrier. An adaptive mindset around creating new norms is crucial when we go from an office environment to working in isolation. When we shift from what know there is uncertainty and as humans we aren’t good at dealing with the unknown so reframing expectations is vital here.
Remember thoughts and what we tell ourselves lead to how we feel and therefore what we action. Be conscious of what you are thinking and the story you are creating. Talk to yourself as a friend would.
Sole or group environment
In the workplace, there are those that lean towards working in a sole environment and most probably will usually adapt more easily to working remotely than someone who is motivated by people around them. Many people struggle to stay motivated working alone, even with access to online collaborative tools and new ways of working.
Ensure you tap into each person and amplify technology as a conduit to collaboration and don’t assume that everyone has adjusted to working remotely in the same way.
Set new expectations
A change in working conditions can lead to unclear expectations, boundaries and ways of working. For an employee having no direction or leadership is like driving somewhere using Google Maps without inputting a destination. There is nowhere to aim for or reach which can stifle action, motivation and overall morale.
Unclear purpose, objectives and expectations of the business, team and roles are widespread especially when new norms aren’t in place and accepted.
Ensure expectations are discussed as a team and everyone set boundaries for what they will and won’t stand for (such as working hours and breaks).
Set up your environment
The environment we work from can be a barrier. Lack of room, light, interaction, systems and processes can stifle our productivity, motivation and overall performance. Communication can become fragmented when a team is split up. Many people experience a lack of training in new systems and tools needed to do their job from home and this can impact confidence and productivity.
Ensure workspaces are set up for success and the technology and systems are assessed, understood and utilised.
Managing time and prioritising is another common challenge and distractions from visitors, loved ones and even the family pet can get in the way.
Many people find loneliness creeps in, we are wired to connect so this can be a natural and common occurrence. Speaking to a client recently who has relocated to a home office from a fast paced open plan office said she feels like she has FOMO, fear of missing out and being out of the loop as not in her normal environment.
Manage self to manage time and ensure everyone has a work plan and boundaries around this.
Use physical disconnection to drive connection
Human beings are wired for connection, it’s an innate need to belong and be part of a community. Ensure as a leader you are jealously protecting time for 1:1s (often first to be forgotten), team catch ups and quick check in calls to keep the lines of communication open. Be innovative and have virtual lunches, themes of the day and different times you catch up.
Use a variety of tools to connect and leverage the technology available.
Coach and grow team members to facilitate team catch ups so you aren’t always in the driver's chair.
I really believe there is a gift in every situation and now is your time to shine as a leader, collaborate more deeply with your team and look at new ways of working to lift performance.
The world needs you, now is the time to step up and supercharge your leadership.
Lead top be limitless
PS: Want to skyrocket your success from working anywhere? We've launched our new online program and you can read more about that here.
Ever wondered what Reneé gets up to when she isn't with working with her clients? She's doing this.
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Renée is a mentor, coach, expert facilitator and keynote speaker, She is the author of ‘Limitless Leadership’ and co-author of ‘Leaders of Influence’.
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