Remote Leadership

How to Lead a Remote Team

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

With more and more organisations seeing the benefits of remote or hybrid working patterns, there’s never been a better time to check in on how effectively your leadership skills are translating to the new landscape.

Remote Team Leadership

From cutting down on commutes to making flexible working more attainable, working from home can be a big bonus for some employees. It does, however, also throw up some new challenges – especially when it comes to effective leadership. The old ways of staying connected need to be complemented by newer techniques – and leaders who are willing to commit to agile leadership are the ones most likely to succeed. According to McKinsey, 87% of employees who were given the chance to work flexibly would take it.

Staying productive and connected as a team is much more difficult in remote environments, but not impossible. 

What is remote leadership?

Remote leadership is a method of inspiring, encouraging and leading teams who may be primarily working from home or in remote locations. A remote leader is required to build a structure of communication patterns, technology, and ways of working for their remote staff. There are many differences when it comes to bringing teams together around a shared vision when not all located in the same place.

What is hybrid leadership?

Hybrid leadership is a way of managing, inspiring and guiding teams who are working both remotely and from a central office or location – usually with a couple of days a week in a shared office. It requires leaders to set up ways of working effectively both in person and remotely.

Challenges of managing remote teams

The biggest challenges around managing teams who work remotely are around building strong connections and relationships. In a physical workplace, there are lots of opportunities to meet, chat and share small moments. While each interaction may not be important on its own, they can come together to create a level of familiarity and understanding that is more difficult to replicate outside of a centralised workspace. 

Then there’s making sure that all of those people also feel connected to their team as well as appreciated for their efforts. According to research from GoodHire, 59% of workers worry about being excluded from important meetings when working remotely. 

Managing remote teams may seem like a lot to handle, but when you consider the fact that FlexJobs found that 84% of people felt that having a remote or hybrid job would make them a happier person, it all feels worthwhile. 

Qualities of effective remote and hybrid leaders

The most effective remote and hybrid leaders have one main quality in common: agility. Being able to reflect and react to a workplace that is constantly changing is a huge boon and can help you make sure you have the edge when it comes to successfully inspiring and managing remote teams. 

Five tips to manage remote/hybrid teams more effectively

Keeping your team on top of day-to-day tasks without losing sight of your main goals and values is always a balancing act – and that’s doubly true when you’re dealing with hybrid or remote teams. Here are five things you can do to stay on track.

1. Be committed to communicating

We all know how vital communication skills are when it comes to being a successful leader and that’s especially true when it comes to managing hybrid and remote teams. From sharing company values to focusing on individual goals, you need to be able to get those all-important messages across.

This might mean a bit of experimentation with the various mediums open to you. Instead of relying on face-to-face meetings or scheduled video calls, you may want to try out different communication software and platforms. While some information is best passed on via a conversation, knowing when to rely on email, private messaging or company-wide announcements will help you share information effectively. 

2. Avoid micromanaging 

When you’re dealing with remote workers, it can be tempting to lean into over-managing as a way of feeling as though you’re still in control. While this impulse is understandable, it’s one that would definitely be worth curbing. Micromanagement seldom has positive outcomes. In fact, a survey by Trinity found that 85% of employees reported their morale was negatively impacted by micromanagers. Meanwhile, self-management can be very important in helping to foster high-performing teams. 

Instead of trying to stay too closely on top of everyone’s deadlines and tasks lists, be sure to utilise your catch ups and check ins wisely. Use those opportunities to ensure productivity levels are where they should be. 

3. Lean into flexibility 

If you’ve already decided to embrace hybrid or remote working, there’s a decent chance that your workplace is pretty flexible and as a leader, it’s a great idea to lean into this. Obviously, you need to encourage some structure, especially for employees to respond well to well-defined parameters, but offering freedom for people to determine their own flexible working pattern can be incredibly helpful. 

As a leader, this also means being flexible in your approach. Newer employees might need more frequent check-ins or more time in the office. Longer serving staff may prefer a much lighter touch.

4. Show appreciation with enthusiasm 

Showing appreciation can be an easy and casual affair when you share an office space. You might pass on a few choice words after a presentation or catch the chance to compliment someone by the coffee machine. When your team is working remotely, you need to be extra sure to be intentional about recognising success. 

While working from home has many benefits, it can also have an unfortunate side effect of making people feel less visible or their efforts less noticeable. A rewards and recognition platform that makes it easy for you to shout about successes both privately and publicly can go a long way in changing that. 

5. Find fresh ways to connect

Contrary to popular belief, productivity tends to go up when people work from home. Why? Because interruptions from colleagues are drastically reduced. That might be great for getting things off the to-do list but it also means that employees aren’t getting the same kind of casual interactions with the rest of their team that they would if they shared a space. 

Creating and maintaining a feeling of team spirit may be a little more challenging when people are working remotely, but it’s just as important. Build new ways to connect, whether those are frequent in-person social events or extra time at the start or end of meetings for people to chat more casually. Increasing remote engagement creates a happier and more motivated team all round. 

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