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/ How to succeed as a remote leader

How to succeed as a remote leader

IN: Leadership.14 APRIL, 2020
How to succeed as a remote leader

The world is on lockdown, people are feeling anxious and businesses are struggling. But the show must go on, adapting to the new conditions. Your goal as a leader - to help your team succeed and grow the business - doesn't change, but your approach and methods might need to. In this article, we give you some tips to help you lead in your team in these troubled times, becoming an effective remote leader to your team and reaching the results you aimed for.


1. Readjust your expectations and communicate them to your team


"The vast majority of people want to do a good job. But if they don't know what you're expecting their day to be, they'll have a hard time meeting those expectations." (Sarah Park, President of MeetEdgar)

It’s unrealistic to think that, under these circumstances, people can keep a full-time, 9-to-5 job. Even if you do have a plan for normal remote working, things are a little different right now: daycares are closed, schools are closed, resources are more scarce available, businesses are struggling, families are locked inside, and emotions are running high.

Leaders can't expect their teams to be as high-functioning as they usually are, and employees can't expect their managers to know how to manage them remotely.


Thus, start by:


It's up you as a leader to be really clear about what the expectations actually are:


2. Invest time in good planning

"When does the work day start? End? Creating a hard line between work/home is tough." (Jeff Gothelf, author and coach)


One of the reasons many managers don't approve of remote work is they fear employees will slack off. But, in fact, the opposite tends to be the reality: remote workers are more likely to overwork. When your personal life and your work are both under the same roof, it's harder to switch off. Setting and respecting boundaries around time is the key to maintaining trust and balance while keeping the work going.


Here are some tips to help you with planning:

For your team:

For yourself:


3. Focus on output over activities.


"Lead with trust. There's nothing more demotivating to someone that is used to having a lot of freedom and a lot of trust than to go remote and start to be micromanaged." (Kieran Flanagan, VP of Marketing at HubSpot)


First-time remote managers sometimes fall into the trap of micromanaging by focusing too much time and energy on monitoring their staff, rather than the outcomes they produce. When everyone is working remotely, there’s one thing that needs to change immediately — the focus needs to move from time spent working to its actual output! When you emphasize results over activities, you’re showing that you trust your staff to manage their own time and workload.

Of course that, if there are people who may need closer management, then offer that. But people who thrive with independence should still have their independence.


Some tips to help you with that:


4. Establish regular one-on-one checkpoints


"Non-remote work defaults to the highest distraction communication first, which is in-person. Remote work defaults to the lowest, which is no communication." (Mike Knoop, Zapier co-founder)


As you start shifting to remote work:


Try to understand how they’re adapting to this abrupt situation, what they’ve been up to and how their loved ones are. Spend the first five minutes of every one-on-one asking about that person's life, showing actual concern with their emotional state. It might feel like a waste of precious meeting time, but it’s a way to ensure that everyone still feels connected, which is crucial in building a remote culture that works. Thanking employees for their effort and communicating with sentences like “we’ll get through this”, can boost morale right up.


To organize your check-ins, ask staff members to fill out an agenda and send yours ahead, with topics like these:

  1. My priorities for the week
  2. Key updates on last week’s top priorities
  3. Items for manager’s input
  4. Something the manager can do to better support me in my work is…
  5. Topics I’m not getting to yet
  6. What else is on the manager’s list?
  7. Next steps 


5. Revise your communication practices.


"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." (George Bernard Shaw)


The sudden shift to a remote workplace can lead to staff and managers feeling isolated and disconnected, or communication can be too dispersed and disorganized. Avoid this by setting communication practices that encourage connecting (formally and informally).

Make sure you keep consistency as much as possible - unless the tool you’re using is really not up to the challenge, stick to the tools your team already knows. These times are chaotic enough without introducing more unknown elements to the process!


Some tips to improve communication within your team:


Remote work requires better meeting rules!


Recommended apps:


We hope that these tips will help you leading your team to adapt to these new times and to reach its goals!


Inês Andrade | Marketing Manager