Like most teams, the health or success of a remote team will almost always rise and fall on leadership.
The challenges of managing a remote team may be slightly different from those of managing an office-based team, but managers that have good leadership skills can generally bring out the best in their employees no matter where they may be located.
Here are 4 ways good leadership skills help remote teams give their best.
1. They encourage and foster self-leadership
Remote employees in particular need to be self-motivated. Conversely, self-motivated individuals often do not do as well in a more structured work environment. The best remote workers are those that understand they have a natural rhythm and pace they work best at.
The rigid schedules of many office environments are often contrary to this pace, which means self-motivated individuals often lack the freedoms to tailor their schedule and work habits to maximize their own productivity.
Great remote leaders, however, encourage their employees to practice self-leadership by finding a rhythm, pace and schedule that works best for them, as well as the right tools to do their very best work. The best remote workers know exactly what they need to deliver their very best work and the best remote leaders empower them to do this.
2. They encourage rest
One of the sad facts of western culture is that we tend to worship exactly the kind of lifestyle that fosters and encourages burnout. No matter how many studies continue to prove that we do our best work when we pace ourselves, take frequent breaks and work fewer hours rather than more, we seem locked in a never-ending competition to see whose schedule is the fullest.
The truth is, there are always times when we don’t “feel” like working. The internet abounds with hundreds of helpful tips on how to make yourself work when you don’t feel like it, but what if the internet is wrong?
What if the answer is not to make yourself work, but to stop working? This doesn’t mean stop working entirely or to not work for several days, but what if when your employees didn’t feel like working, you encouraged them to go do something they did feel like doing instead?
Maybe they need a nap, a long lunch or to get outside and enjoy a round of golf. How much more productive might we be when we did go back to work if we stopped and scratched the itch that was keeping us from working in the first place?
Yes, there will always be times when we just need to push through, but what if there are also times when we need to just step back and walk away for a bit? Great remote leaders help their employees decide which is which – and then respect their decision.
3. They help workers automate tasks they don’t need to do
The concern that machines are taking away jobs from humans continues to be a pervasive one. The truth is, however, that machines can’t do what humans haven’t programmed them to do – which requires human ingenuity.
Conversely, machines can now do a great deal of work that doesn’t actually require the kind of complex thought that humans are capable of. This, in turn, frees humans up to do what only they are capable of. Most people don’t enjoy doing a job they feel a monkey could easily do. It’s kind of hard to motivate people to give their best when they don’t feel there is any challenge to their jobs in the first place. Great remote leaders help their employees find tasks that can be automated and let them do it.
Humans are best at doing what machines can’t: creating, innovating, driving the world forward. Machines are best at doing what we have long since mastered. One of the best ways for remote leaders to get the best from their employees is to find ways to let machines do what they are best at, which in turn frees up their employees to do what only they can do.
4. They develop great relationships
It cannot be stated enough that employees are people. As people, they have social, psychological and emotional needs that must be met. While remote employees continue to prove to be vastly more productive than their in-office counterparts, this doesn’t mean they don’t still have needs that are often met by working in an office environment.
As annoying as it can sometimes be to have to see the same people at work every day, there is also a social benefit to it that may not be as easy to recognize. While being a remote manager may negate the need to deal with inter-office politics, it doesn’t mean you should forego building personal relationships with your employees, either.
To get the best from them and help them give their best, you need to know who they are. Remote managers may have to work extra hard to develop good working relationships with their employees, but it is important that they do.
Leading a remote team is not necessarily any more challenging than manning an office team, but it may require a slightly different skillset. One advantage that remote managers have is that remote work is still fairly new. That means the playbook has not yet been set in stone. Remote leaders have an opportunity to help their teams overcome some of the worst habits of office-bound employees.
About the Author
Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon