Updated: Mar 25, 2021
Thanks to everyone who responded to my request to discover what skills and attributes a remote leader needed, and how you were keeping people engaged remotely. I will share the results in two parts. The first is below highlight the top three skills. Part two will focus on engagement.
The Skillset of a Remote Leader
A remote leader is still required to have all the skills of a person leading inside an organization. The biggest difference is that the leader needs to become more intentional about their leadership and how they care for their team. The big three takeaways are:
Communication: This topic hits all the lists all the time. How do leaders communicate more effectively in order to connect to others and achieve the goals and objectives? When leading remotely, leaders need to have an open communication channel and be curious about others. Being open means sharing what the needs are and hearing about the needs of others. This is not the time for ambiguity, be clear, be direct and succinct. Be sure to test for understanding, as much can be missed when people are not on camera, or the leader cannot accurately interpret the facial ques.
Pause along the way. So often, we are trying to communicate too much in a short period of time and not leave time for questions, or clarifications. Everyone doesn't absorb information at the same speed. Put some 'speed bumps' in your message.
Leading virtually requires that the leader listens more and present less. It is easy to rely on technology and presentation, but the leader needs to be present. Speaking of being present, the virtual leader needs to not have distractions around them such as ringing cell phones, beeping email notifications or engage in mindless multi-tasking.
Communication may need to happen more frequency, but in short bursts. Stay connected to the team both professionally and personally. Consider having more shorter one on one's than extending team meetings. When setting goals, set small ones that leads to the larger goal, and during team meetings, check off those completions! Keep the team informed by sharing results, successes and small wins.
Communicate with energy, passion and enthusiasm. Remind people of how they are valued and the importance of their work.
2. Empathy: The skill of empathy came up quite frequently. Leaders need to have a real interest in the people that work for them. If someone is missing a deadline, become curious as to what is going on in their lives, before jumping to conclusions. When working from home, everyone is not equipped with a home office or designated work space. Bedrooms, garages, a corner in the dining room or a partition in the kitchen is the new office. Be understanding when the unexpected may occur in a meeting.
If a dog wanders in, give them a little screen time. If the toddler waddles in, give a wave and a shout out and keep going. Your team needs your support during this time. Now is the time to assume positive intent when something happens. It is so easy to misread an email, or misunderstand something that gets voiced on a conference call. Take time to explore and not explode!
Start your meetings by finding out how people are doing. Pose a fun question for people to answer in chat, i.e., 'what's on the dinner menu today?' Or 'what is one fun activity you have planned for the week?'
3. Technological Competency: I agree with this one. I cannot tell you how much time I have spent getting up to speed on all the nuances of web-conferencing. As a consultant, I usually have to know two or three platforms well. Find out as much as you can about the team platform that you use and then share that knowledge with others. Understanding the tools of the web-conferencing software will help keep people engaged. Use the whiteboards, chats, breakout rooms, open mike, emoji's and hand raising, all these tools keep people engaged.
It is critical when leading teams that the virtual leader has mastered how to mute background noise, run videos flawlessly and maintain that personal connection. With that said, 'stuff happens.' One day after an system update the night before, my camera went wonky and the mouse would not work, and class started in twenty minutes. Don't panic, be transparent about what is happening, one of my participants gave me a suggestion that kept me going. Keep another device close by in case you need a back-up plan. I had a short power outage while conferencing and just switched to my phone.
Find other technology that makes everyone's life easier. Now may be the time to get an on line task list or project management tool for the team. Use on line collaboration tools to brainstorm and share ideas. Great technology can help you manage your time and keep you organized.
Learn how to navigate and drive your web-conferencing platform with confidence.