Deadly. An ominous word to describe the mistakes leaders make with their remote workforce, albeit a deliberate choice. During a time of radical change and uncertainty that continues to redefine the work world, teams look even more closely to their leaders for optimism, support and hope for the future in ways that demand their time, attention, care and transparency. Should this be lacking, the consequences for morale, employee retention and organizational culture could be dire. In order for leaders to effectively connect and help their remote teams succeed, avoiding, more importantly, addressing the following mistakes is essential.
1. Out of touch
Leaders who are out of touch, both literally and figuratively, cannot expect their teams to simply “figure things out” when they are working remotely. Out of sight does not mean out of mind. The challenge for many leaders lies in determining how much contact is too much. As a result, they go to the extreme ends of the spectrum. i.e. either scheduling endless online meetings or failing to connect meaningfully, regularly and organically. Remote teams need to hear from leadership and know that they are accessible, while respecting boundaries between personal and business hours.
Not only do leaders need to be available, they also need to be educating themselves and become more open regarding remote teams preferences. Recent findings from Pew Research Center indicate that over 50% of employed adults wish to keep working from home, noting that people feel less pressure and more productive and motivated. Whilst working from home isn’t possible for certain occupations, leaders who have difficulty understanding and embracing the new reality of remote work are putting their relationships with their workforce at risk.
An old age mistake that has now soared to even greater prominence is the strong desire of many leaders to micromanage from a distance. I have recently worked with organizations who report that their leaders are concerned about their remote team’s ability to remain productive and manage their time. As a result, some leaders are exerting greater control by mandating meetings, calling team members at random or emailing more often. If they aren’t doing so overtly, organizations using digital surveillance software to monitor the workflow of remote teams with increased frequency has skyrocketed. . What is most important for leaders to consider is the rationale behind the need to “check in”. When software becomes “bossware”, or “spyware” that is perceived by remote teams as intrusive, your bond of trust can be permanently damaged and may be irreparable.
4. Insufficient communication
While there are many factors that leaders cannot control, providing remote teams with regular communication is 100% within their control. Unfortunately, a lack of communication coupled with the challenge of physical distance adds to employee angst and profoundly impacts the connection that remote teams have with their organization. Keeping people informed can never be an afterthought, nor an item on a leader’s checklist. There are no excuses for a lack of communication, or a lack of transparency, given the proliferation of technologies that make it easy for leaders and teams to remain connected. The most successful remote organizations make communication a priority. In fact, many are obsessed with it, choosing to “overcommunicate”. Their goal is to ensure that channels of communication are always open, information is shared, and understanding is achieved.
Embracing new realities with remote teams is essential for leadership success. It is possible to mitigate mistakes and build a dynamic, remote workforce, as long as leaders remain intentional regarding staying connected and practice emotional intelligence while continuing to remain open to new ways of doing business.
About the author: Based in Vancouver, Michelle Ray is a Leadership Expert and Founder of Lead Yourself First Enterprises. She provides in-person or virtual workshops, keynotes and leadership coaching solutions to help organizations build resilient, optimistic and future-ready mindsets. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life. Her next book Leading in Real Time will be released in September, 2021.