In these unpredictable times, it’s essential to be able to adjust. This article guides you through the transition of leading an office team to lead a remote team and how you adjust your leadership principles to the situation.
The Transition from Office to Remote Leadership
We’re used to doing things in a certain way at the office, and that completely changes when we have to work from home. For employees unfamiliar with remote work, this situation requires a lot of changes because of a new environment and often the feeling of detachment.
Jesper Riedel is an expert on the subject of remote leadership and has spent most of his professional life in big American corporations, where he has been with Microsoft for 15 years, and 10 of those as a leader. Jesper knows what it takes to build and lead a high-performance remote team and has experience with both pros and cons of working remotely.
The biggest challenge of going remote is that we're not used to it, Jesper argues. Your leadership principles should essentially be the same whether or not your team is working remotely. The big difference lies in how you are adapting your processes to the new reality and ensuring that tools pave the way for effective online collaboration.
The difference is your approach to it. You have to adapt your leadership principles and processes to a remote situation.
It’s important to understand what it’s like to be managed remotely and ensure an inclusive experience for all your employees. You have to pay special attention to practising empathy, over-communicating, and being over cautious towards your team.
A guide to the Remote Leader
Here are 5 concrete pieces of advice to nurture the best transition for you and your team working remotely:
1: Over Communicate
As a manager, you can look busy in the office running around, but people working remote can’t see that you’re busy. All they experience are silence. So it’s important to communicate upfront and tell your employees that you’re busy for the next period, but also emphasise that they should always give you a call if it’s urgent.
Jesper Riedel points out that it’s essential to communicate these types of situations and display your leadership so that your employees don’t feel left out or interruptive. As a leader, you must set up some structures to show your presence because questions and issues will occur and your team will look for guidance and assurance.
The Relesys Platform is a great tool for structuring your internal communication and it gives all your employees access to information simultaneously. It supports an inclusive culture by making all of your employees feel informed and updated.
2: Be Proactive
In an office environment, it’s easy to pull a colleague into an impromptu meeting or ask an ad-hoc question. But when you’re working remotely it can seem inconvenient to interrupt a colleague or a leader with a mail or chat message.
This kind of on-the-spot interaction can be an issue when working remotely because electronic interruptions can feel more disturbing with all the notifications. You have to proactively show when you’re available for questions and instant messages - and when you aren't.
Jesper Riedel recommends setting up regular one to one meetings and team meetings to accommodate some of these interactions, so your employees don’t feel interruptive. Jesper Riedels' own best practice is to set reminders for when and how often to check in with his employees:
You have to show them, that it’s not out of sight out of mind.
With the Relesys Platform, you can create specific content modules for this type of one-the-spot interaction with chat rooms or direct messaging. You can also foster a proactive attitude on the social walls, where your employees have the possibility to share questions, ideas, or frustrations with each other.
3: Foster a Healthy Environment
Another crucial aspect is to let go of control and embrace trust. It can be a challenge not to micromanage just a little because it’s hard not to be able to see if your employees are actually working or being productive.
This is the difference between being a leader and being a manager. You have to lead your employees with trust and let them know that you got their back. Be aware of cultivating team collaborations and remember to celebrate success. Jesper elaborates:
Part of the challenge is about building a healthy culture that enables your employees to feel connected and empowered together.
4: Create a Sense of Belonging
Distance from an office environment can contribute to employees feeling detached from the organization’s bigger purpose. Therefore you must define missions and goals for your team, so they get a feeling of working towards some definite together.
These days we’re dependent on online meetings, which tend to be effective. But the effectiveness also comes with consequences because we forget the informal small talk. Jesper pleads to come up with a form for the informal talk and incorporate it into your daily process. As a leader you consciously have to ask your employees questions like: How are you doing? What does it feel like to work from home?
Your employees need to feel heard and seen in these special times. Give your employees a sense of anchoring by focusing on team identity. Jesper shares his great experience with naming departments and teams to support a strong team spirit and community feeling even though your team is not physically together.
With the Relesys App you can divide your employees into teams and departments providing them with individual social walls to interact with and create a sense of anchoring and team identity.
5: Invest in Employee Engagement
It’s your responsibility as a leader to engage your employees by setting the right environment for social bonding and a feeling of belonging. Studies show that these components are highly correlated to employee performance, so as a leader it’s in your interest to invest in employee engagement.
An important aspect related to employee engagement is social relationships. As a leader, you must encourage your team to invest and spend time with each other even though it’s online. It’s easy to feel alone because you can’t interact with your colleagues the same way as in the office.
Some organizations have “virtual coffee” as a replacement for the traditional talk over the coffee machine to nurture personal conversations. Social relations at work are important to feel a sense of belonging and engagement with your organization.
You have to set the right stage for it and make sure there is a sense of purpose for your team.
According to Jesper “virtual coffee” could be one way to invest in socializing, but you can’t just tell people to have virtual coffee. As a leader, you have to promote it and take it seriously for your employees to want to participate. It doesn’t have to be an hour every day, but it can be a good idea to initiate the Monday morning brief by sharing a personal story or feeling.
The Relesys Platform allows you to share social content within the organization for your coworkers to interact with. For example, your employees can share pictures of their workstation at home to give other colleagues a glimpse of their new home office. These kinds of social interactions promote a healthy and inclusive environment, which strengthens internal relationships.
Whether you’re leading an office team or leading a remote team it’s the same leadership qualities you need. But you have to adjust your leadership principles and processes to a remote format, which includes being more cautious and over communicative.
With these pieces of advice in mind, Jesper Riedel emphasizes that you must get your team together when all of this is over to give your employees something to look forward to and to reward your common effort.
If you want to learn more about how the Relesys Platform can accommodate your needs and support your remote leadership book a demo here.