6 Challenges for Remote Leadership
While the world has quickly adapted to the lockdowns of 2020 by resorting to remote working, it has presented new challenges, especially for leaders. Although working from home appears to be beneficial for employees, it is altogether another cup of tea for leaders who manage remote teams in different locations.
Working together undoubtedly builds bonds and smoothens work processes but in a world where remote working is here to stay, we need to identify and address the challenges that leaders face to lead and guide their teams to perform.
It would be good to list down a few challenges and consider approaches to tackle them.
1. Set goals and clarify expectations
In the world of chaos, where every day throws up new problems, it is difficult to keep an eye on the ball. Leaders at all levels need to manage the expectations of their bosses as well as motivate, persuade and guide followers. Therefore, it is vital that expectation management be a key role, with a free and frank discussion on stretch goals, with clear performance metrics
2. Coach the team remotely
Remote coaching is a challenge. Face to face has a distinct advantage because you can observe and give feedback.
Some approaches are:
- Spend time to coach- schedule time
- Use the 5 step approach: Explain, demonstrate, let them try, observe performance, redirect.
- Be available- to answer questions or doubts.
- Make sure your team members leverage technological tools necessary for remote work
3. Keep the communication flowing
It is easy in a physical world to pop across to your teammate and discuss ideas or organize a brainstorming meeting for a business problem. This gives everyone the opportunity to speak freely and one can feel the energy going through.
In a virtual world, the tendency is to use email and text messages rather than a personal method of communicating. Raising the possibility of being misunderstood.
Some approaches that may be suggested are:
- Hold one-on-one virtual meetings to understand concerns, difficulties faced.
- Over-communicate, be transparent, and clear with your goals.
- Hold frequent meetings to keep them engaged in the process and activities, and keep them updated about organizational changes.
- Create an environment, where your team can exchange their ideas freely and be comfortable to keep their perspectives among others.
- Encourage teams to develop relevant skills, and leverage digital channels.
4. Team building is trust-building
Teams work on trust. Which is built on experiences with team members and leaders often developed over time. Remote working makes it more difficult to build a personal connection and trust.
Some approaches that could be examined include:
- Encourage teams to be accountable to contribute in discussion and decision making
- Build trust among your team. This indirectly encourages them and reflect on the quality of work and process
5. Work-life balance
Research studies show that, while #Work from Home/ Work from anywhere is convenient, it has some downsides too. Lack of boundaries between work and life is one such issue. Over time employees who find it difficult to follow normal work hours will resent it.
You could try to:
- Set a work/ time schedule for your team and stick to it- for example no calls after 8 pm
- Maintain decorum during calls- dress code, timing
- Respect weekends
6. Performance evaluation
Ultimately we need to assess each member’s contribution to the team and the business and make certain decisions, some of them hard! Often performance appraisals depend overly on the individual’s performance during the last quarter rather than being an assessment of performance through the year. This was a challenge in pre-Covid times and is even more so now in the remote work situation.
To address this, leaders may:
- Work on ongoing assessment- for each project/ month and build a pattern for the individual. Don’t wait for the end of the year.
- Performance assessment should be developmental where the leader helps teammates identify areas of development and support employees to perform.
The above is an indicative list of 6 challenges leaders face. Leading remote teams is no cakewalk. It needs a greater effort, greater creativity, and more out of the box thinking on the part of the leader to support teams to perform