Many people have found remote work to be a personal game-changer. Gone is the wasted time in the commute, additional expenses for lunch and go as far as less clothing and work expenses.
Along with all the benefits of remote work comes new hurdles in leadership in order to lead everyone equally to a shared goal. Today we’ll look at three common hurdles that leaders need to overcome with people to keep them engaged and empowered to do great work at home.
Be intentional in inclusion
When you think of the term “inclusion” in the workplace, you may think of cultural, gender, or age-based topics, and while those are right among many other things, Remote and hybrid work bringing introduces leaders to the proximity bias hurdle.
Support those that work remotely to make sure that they are visible to their peers and key players and that they are engaged and contributing to high-visibility projects.
If you are a remote worker, push your leader (politely) to be included more in meetings and projects.
Hold all of your meetings online A lot of information and non-verbal communication can be picked up in a meeting that is in person. You can clearly see how someone reacts, or doesn’t, to the topic being discussed. Holding hybrid meetings creates inequities for the team. The team members that are physically present enjoy the full context of what is being communicated and the ones online miss the extra context as they look at your video feed on their computer screen. The equity grows much further when the meeting is in person, but only through audio for remote workers.
Remote work lends itself to ambiguity. To overcome this hurdle, you should be crystal clear on goals, expectations and any timelines that are needed. It’s also easy to throw around a bunch of ideas or to-dos in virtual meetings as the meeting naturally progresses. Be clear on what has a priority and what does not to help people see how they need to allocate their time and resources.
When it comes to clarity:
Review to-dos, who is responsible, and priority with your team at the end of the meeting. Gather a sense of agreement from the group before you close out the time.
Answer questions and communicate how new items impact current tasks and expectations.
Have a regular time of meetings on the calendar to keep things fresh and relevant.
As you set clarity around expectations, you should also ensure clear accountability and follow-up as needed.
When it comes to accountability:
Identify who is ultimately responsible for the task. This is typically only one or two people. This doesn’t mean that they have to do all the work, but they do need to lead it to its conclusion.
Leverage tools to track accountability – Dashboards, check-ins, business reviews, scorecards etc.
Ensure everyone understands their part to play in meeting the larger team goal.
If you are in remote worker and aren’t sure about the direction or who is accountable for what be sure to ask for it. Your leader may not be intentionally injecting ambiguity, they may not understand that their commutation is not clear.
Take care of their social needs
Virtual meetings are fairly transactional. You meet at a set time to discuss a particular business item and then you go on to the next meeting. Too many virtual calls in a day or week can leave the person feeling disconnected from their peers and others that they work with and for.
No matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all desire a sense of belonging and fellowship. It’s funny how the small things in the office that we took for granted; the small talk, the dumb jokes, and debating silly inconsequential things are types of items that people miss.
When it comes to caring for social needs:
Build time in the calendar with agenda-free items that give people a chance to catch up.
Start off your small team and one-on-one meetings with check-in on personal items. Leaders have a tendency to skip this critical step in virtual meetings.
Schedule get-togethers and team-building activities together. Keep in mind safety, inclusiveness and preferences of the group.
Survey the team on how they would want to support their social needs together.
Eliminate the confusion, make sure everyone feels included in the journey and invest in others’ social needs. By leading well in these three categories, you’ll be well on way to building a happy and productive remote team.
There are absolutely advantages in working from home; accessibility, a higher level of engagements, and lower costs for you personally among other things.
Working in a remote environment can be a challenge too. While Emotional Intelligence is a major differentiator in the real world, you can leverage and even grow your EQ in a remote world.
Turn the camera on
Whenever you turn on your camera you are putting a little bit of yourself out there. You are displaying vulnerability and authenticity to those that you are meeting with. This can help you and the other party build empathy with each other.
Be mindful of your background: Ideally, you want a clean and nondistracting background. Clean up the space behind you before jumping on the call. At my home studio, I have two closet doors that are in view. I always make sure that those are closed so that they aren’t a distraction. As fun as the virtual backgrounds are to use, stay in the real world if possible. They can be distracting themselves and don’t always work right.
Respect the time: In general, video calls do run shorter than an in-person meeting. Be mindful of the time and land the meeting a couple of minutes early to allow for people to close up and get ready for the next appointment.
Present yourself and your environment in a way that is positive and connects with others: We’ve all seen the joke about the guy in his underwear with a suit jacket on his video call. Put a little bit of effort into how you look to others. You don’t want to show up looking like you just got out of bed. Also, consider the impression you are giving others with your environment. You don’t want the amazing views of your condo to distract the new employee that just started at the ground level.
Lead with and master small talk
Some people hate small talk, but when it’s done with intent and with the right focus it can really add value to the relationship. Using small talk to build rapport and connection before you jump into a heavy topic can be invaluable to how the conversation goes.
Great small talk is always other-focused. Here are a couple of examples to contrast:
Before we get going, tell me how John’s baseball game went…..
Did everybody have a good weekend?
The first examples show you are being specific with the person, empathetic towards their personal life and affirms that you listen to the other person.
The second is not as strong with EQ. It’s generic and seems like you are just checking the box without a real interest in the answer. If I’m in a one-on-one I will back the conversation up if the person jumps right into the business. It shows them that they are my priority over the reason for us to being together.
Transform your small talk from an awkward silence filler to one where you learn and connect with others.
Be transparent and show authenticity
It may sometimes feel like as a leader you have to have all the answers all the time, besides, your people are looking to you for advice and guidance.
Be ok with admitting when you don’t know the answer. Your people will value your honesty and will build your trust level with others.
Acknowledge when you can’t fully connect empathically. Instead of trying to relate in an unrealistic way or turning the attention back to you, tell the person that you don’t understand the challenge that they are facing. Just being there and acknowledging the moment means a lot to people.
Use the opportunities in remote work to grow your self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Grow your EQ and your impact on others will increase no matter the distance.
The year 2020 fundamentally changed how many go about doing their work!. In a matter of weeks, you may have found yourself going from visiting with the co-worker next to you to suddenly setting up a work station in your dining room. That sudden and sustained shift is stressful and its impact can be long felt on your professional and personal journey.
With the right focus and attention, we can enjoy all the perks of working in a virtual environment and thrive to greater success.
Keep focus in the chaos
Stay focused on your assigned tasks and responsibilities by avoiding distractions in your home. This one can be really challenging depending on your home situation. Your significant other, kids, TVs, streaming, social media, and other things all tug at your attention throughout the day. Be creative and set up a good working environment the best that you can.
Keep your calendar updated to provide structure in both your home and work environment. Scheduling both sides of your life ensures that one is not a distraction for the other. You don’t want that grocery list or messy kitchen to be a day-long distraction on your work.
If you have children doing virtual school, help them with a similar setup so they can stay focused on their school work. We live in an older house and converted our formal dining area into a school space for both our kids. We weren’t sure how it would work, but it turned out great for both in the end.
Build and protect work routines and boundaries
It’s very easy to let your work and life blur together when you work in a virtual environment. I have spent the last 7 years working out of a home office to various degrees and it is always something that I have had to be mindful of.
Success comes down to setting and protecting boundaries, otherwise, you’ll find yourself sitting down for just a minute to do something only to lose a couple of hours of personal time as you continue on in your work. Things will no doubt pop up after hours that may require your immediate attention. Obviously address those, but let them be the exception and not the norm.
If the people that work with you know that you have no boundaries, they will likely take advantage of it whether they know it or not. It could come in texts, emails, or calls that normally wouldn’t take place if you had a good set of boundaries.
Communicate often and with intent
Since you may not see your leader all the time anymore, you need to be intentional about communicating with them. Set up a weekly check-in time and also update them throughout the week on your projects and outstanding items. it will help both of you when your leader has a good sense of where you are in your work.
Keep an open line of communication with your peers as well. Head off a sense of isolation by staying in touch with those you work with. Find out what’s going on in their personal life and how you can help them in their professional life.
Be transparent with your leader about your journey
No one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from you in your virtual work environment. Breakthrough the pleasantries with your leader and stay transparent and authentic in the struggles that you may be facing in your situation. It’s always great if you can bring a potential solution along with a problem to your leader, but sometimes you are at a total loss and simply don’t know what the solution could be. Don’t let that hold you back from talking to your leader. They need and want to know.
A leader can’t lead and help if they don’t know that you need a hand.
Follow these tips to keep a focused workspace where you feel connected with others and good boundaries to feel a great work-life rhythm.
One of the challenges of remote work is that there are fewer opportunities for everything. There may be little to no chances to just hang out with your co-works or team anymore. Certainly fewer opportunities exist to have an impromptu brainstorming or problem-solving session.
With fewer opportunities to connect and grow together, it’s important for you as a leader to have good operational behaviors to close the virtual gap between you and your team.
Have one-on-ones with your team
It’s important to schedule a regular cadence to check-in individually with your people. For newer ones, they should be very frequent (multiple times a week), for your more experienced members perhaps it’s weekly or even bi-weekly depending on the need and scope of work.
One-on-ones are very productive because it offers your team members a chance to address things that have come up between meetings. I have mine weekly and typically write out a list ahead of time of things to cover or updates to give. Some items may include important project updates, non-critical people issues, questions on clarity, and updates from previous topics.
Always open the meeting on a personal note and avoid jumping straight into business unless you meet very frequently and/or you are both pressed for time. The thing you open with first is your most important topic. Show your people that they are important connecting with them before you start with the business topics at hand.
Have an open calendar
People can get weird about calendars. Whether it’s a feeling of invasion of privacy or they lack trust in others, some people choose to keep their calendars locked down so that no one can see them. As a leader, you should at least open up your calendar for your team to see and ask them to do the same for you. This will give you both a chance to look and schedule time together without a bunch of back and forth beforehand.
You can always keep certain events and time private if you need to. Look for the privacy setting when you create an event, it will typically mark the time as busy or unavailable when others see your calendar.
Be on time
Does your day consist of going from meeting to meeting? It can be hard to keep yourself on schedule for the day when each meeting has an X factor of talking heads and oversharing. Do your best to end the meeting on time so you can be on time for the next one. It shows you respect the other person’s time and have them as a priority.
I typically watch the time in my meeting and then give us a verbal warning if I don’t feel like we are going to wrap up on time. I may say something like, “Alright, we have five minutes left. What follow-up is needed as we wrap up this topic?” If there are outstanding items still to cover, schedule more time later to discuss and follow-up on.
Knock it out now
With fewer opportunities to pop-in on one another, it’s more important to make decisions in the moment. Don’t make a rash or ill-informed judgment call, but do your best to provide an answer, direction, and clarity in the moment.
Provide an answer to someone when they ask for it, rather than putting it off unless it requires further follow-up or knowledge gathering. Every time you delay a decision or push the topic until later on, you are hitting the pause button on that action item. Because of the nature of remote work, you’ve likely just stopped all progress on the topic whether you realized it or not.
Take care of questions and decisions in the moment if at all possible.
You can be a great leader in the booming age of remote work. Carry the proper mindset and build strong operational behaviors to lead your team, and yourself, well.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 virus in the human population. We have lived through one of the most devastating events that have happened in the history of humanity, and one area that has fundamentally changed is how we go about doing our work. More people than ever are doing remote work.
Leaders should be aware of the natural gap that is created in this remote environment and adapt the right mentality to meet the new demand.
Carry a clear perspective
While you’ll have a natural pull towards people on your team that you have a lot in common with, or people that are high performers with high potential, remember to treat everyone like they are winners and they matter. I have seen some leaders truly shine and this is one of their secrets. I’ve had this leader in my life as well and it’s both affirming and aspiring. I know that she really appreciates and values me, and I also know that she gives that same love and support to others on the team.
Make them feel like there is no one winner. Make them all feel like winners.
Know your people well
Another mindset in order to close the virtual gap is to know your people well. Take the relationship past the transactional and business at hand, and get to know those around you.
Understand what motivates them on a personal level (Not just at work).
Gain a level of mutual respect where you both are free to share more vulnerable parts about your life. What are some things that you struggle with, avoid, or need help on?
Learn the person’s body language. As long as you have those cameras on during the meetings, you should still be able to lean into this aspect of reading a person somewhat.
Know about their loved ones. This can look different depending on the person and life stage. Regardless of whether it’s a best friend or a spouse and kids, learn those people’s names and ask about them when interacting with your team.
Knowing people well helps you dial in your message and direction that meets the person right where they are. This mindset becomes a weather forecaster for people. You’ll start to see signs of an impending change or struggle in a person before it fully manifests itself.
Trust & Empower
Do you want to save yourself some time, make your team feel better about their job, and lower your stress? Empower your people as they work in a virtual environment.
Give your team members responsibilities and trust them to do great things. This will help you re-allocate your time from doing tasks that you shouldn’t do to doing extra coaching, mentoring, and development time.
Assume that your people are coming to you with the best intentions and that there is a legitimate need when they ask for it. Value your people and the fact that they are seeking your guidance and help. Always start from a positive place in your interactions.
Affirm and Confirm
With an avalanche of emails, you might tend to let the trail drop once a resolution is sent. Great remote leaders take the time to send one last confirmation that word of thanks to the other person(s).
This may seem trivial, but these small gestures add up to a big deal in the long term. You are reinforcing that you are responsive and attentive towards your team and colleagues. Always end an email chain on a positive note. Remember that minor things matter.
Having the right mentality makes all the difference when you are leading your remote team. Trust and empower your people and help them keep the right perspective.