Leadership In The 21st Century

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How To Truly Lead, Not Just Manage, Remote Teams

For decades people have been able to communicate instantly from anywhere on Earth. The technological revolution that enabled this connectivity has proven very useful in business.  Coordinating meetings or conferences with clients and investors that span the globe is possible and cost effective.  But, it has also led to a profound transformation of our business culture – we no longer need to be in the same office, or even the same city, to work together.  Imagine the impacts on all aspects of how we work – teams, operations and leadership!

Communication Is Key (Even More Than Usual)

Managing remote team members becomes difficult without effective communications.  And those interactions become more complex because the very important non-verbal cues that help us understand our fellow humans are harder to pick up when we are not looking at each other.  If you often have little more interaction with your team than a text message or email, tasks, objectives and instructions can miss the mark.  Despite our ability to transmit messages in real time, people aren’t always listing when you’re on a remote team, and it can be hard to get timely answers to questions as a result.  

This is where leadership really counts.  Here are some tips to make your team more effective:

  • Try a little old school approach – pick up the phone and call your team – not as good as an in-person meeting but waaaay better than email.
  • Make as many calls via a video platform as possible.  It’s a great way to connect with remote team members and team meetings are better when everyone can see each other. 
  • For task/project work, provide as many resources as possible to supplement the textual instructions – for example, offer video tutorials, pdf templates or demo versions.
  • Utilize applicable tools to organize your team’s messages and group correspondence so you can keep on it and respond as quickly as possible (gravatate is a great way to declutter your work from other electronic messages). 

Find Ways to Validate Your Remote Team Members

Whether 5 minutes or 5 hours away from one another, teams need leaders who make them feel valued, secure, and wanted. 

There are thousands of ways an individual leader can achieve this, but when the team is never face to face failure is almost a given.  Why?  Because team development relies on Forming/Storming/Norming/Performing as a paradigm and it requires person-to-person interactions.  According to a Kenexa Research Institute published by SHRM, “50 percent of the positive changes in communication patterns within the workplace can be credited to social interaction outside the workplace.” This translates to taking the time to connect with your team, virtually or in-person, over more than just your work. 

Here are some parting thoughts on to ways connect (with) your team:  

  • Group recognition of birthdays, anniversaries or achievements (y’know, with a card or something simple or fun – whatever works for your team).  
  • Share a kind word or shout out a ‘thank you’ to let folks know you appreciate their efforts (use gravatate’s chat function to help with this one!).
  • Or one of my favorites… as a team leader, share your appreciation of the team’s efforts at the end of a virtual meeting.  People will always remember your thoughtfulness. 

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