Leading Remotely

It’s been a little while since I shared a ‘musing’, and I wanted to reflect on a leadership workshop I’ve been developing over the last week or two. I’m working with a leadership team, fairly newly formed in their current guise, and one of the areas I wanted to explore with them was remote working, remote leadership and remote health and wellbeing.

picture of a woman's hands on a laptop with a cup of tea nearby

With the new ways of working that we’ve all experienced recently, it can be hard to feel like you are fully in contact with the people you would normally be used to seeing on an almost daily basis. So, how do you maintain strong relationships and leadership focus during this time?

Here are some thoughts I had…

1) Decide HOW to connect

What do your team want/need to connect? Do they prefer regular, short check-ins over Zoom or MS Teams? Would they rather a voice only check in? A half day session once a month with shorter, individual meetings peppered throughout the rest of the time? Ask them. You won’t know what works if you don’t. You may need to experiment to work out the best approach for you all.

2) Set Expectations

How are you going to work over this time? What are the expectations of your team? What can they expect from you? What are the aims and objectives for you, for them and for the team as a whole over the next quarter? Be sure to set out what your priorities are so that everyone is clear. 

3) Become outcomes focussed

If you are used to working over a set, contracted number of hours, this may no longer work. Helping your team to become outcomes focussed, rather than monitoring the number of hours spent in front of a computer will ensure that everyone is clear on what is expected, and about knowing that it’s okay to manage their own time (within boundaries) as long as the high quality work you and your clients depend on them for is done.

4) Have regular 1:1s

I have a colleague with whom I have two, one hour meetings a week. One is focussed on our work and outputs, the other is a more informal ‘what’s on your mind’ meeting. It works well for us. However you choose to structure them, ensure you have regular 1:1s in with each of your team members, and ensure that these are focussed on their health and wellbeing, development and support as well as wider work. Ensure they have a chance to set the agenda.

5) Weekly Team Meetings

Have them. Plan them. Don’t ditch them. This should be time to help you continue to grow your bond and reconnect with your purpose. These will also be crucial for welcoming new team members during this time for whom this is how they will know their team for the foreseeable future. Ensure there is time for personal as well as work reflection. The normal time this personal connectivity might take place is as people arrive into the meeting room and settle in, or as they leave. Remote meetings don’t tend to allow for this. Try building it in. Always start with a ‘check in’; giving everyone a chance to (a) get their voice into the space and (b) giving time and space to value each individual by allowing them to share something important or interesting to them.

6) Build trust, independence and openness

Lead by example. Share how you are feeling, or what experiences you have. Show trust in your team, and allow them to see that you are also balancing work with home at this time. Be open with your time. If you do the school run, schedule it in your diary. Build an environment where people are invited, supported and encouraged to ask questions when they are not sure. Create space in meetings for creativity and connection. Be you.

7) Show patience, empathy and kindness

Not just for your team, but for yourself too. Think about how you show up, and the way you team feels after an encounter with you. Recognise and understand where your stressors are and how you behave under stress. Remember you don’t need to have all the answers, and a team can (and should) work together to solve issues and problems. Welcome in all voices.

8) Focus on Health and Wellbeing

There are a number of ways that you can explore this. Be sure that you understand what support is available for your staff (perhaps you have an Employee Assistance Scheme for example). Where can you refer them if they are finding things difficult? Part of your role as a leader is understanding where you can help, and where outside or differently skilled support is important. Here are somethings you could try with your team:

  • Separate work and home space – consider a regular schedule where you build in time for a ‘commute’ (a walk before you start work, or a meditation, or reading the paper….) – something that delineates the end of ‘home’ time and the start of ‘work’ time. In the same way, set a ending routing including packing away work equipment out of site (especially if you’re working in your bedroom). 
  • Schedule in breaks – lunch, coffee, a stretch… whatever gives you five minutes away from the screen. Consider making meetings 50 mins only to allow natural breaks where there are days of back-to-back meetings (anyone else?!)
  • Get clear on your shared purpose – resilience is shown to link to having a clear purpose (if you want more on building resilience, check out the download on this topic – www.quietthehive.com/freebies)
  • Be flexible – talk about and encourage flexibility in how, when and where your team work (and you). CIPD research shows that just knowing that people have access to flexible working opportunities has shown to boost staff engagement, even if they don’t actually choose to work flexibly themselves!
  • Go offline – can you mix up how you are in meetings? Can you encourage everyone to dial into a meeting on the phone (audio only) and have a walking meeting instead? It gets people outdoors, exercising and encourages creativity all in one fell swoop!
  • Make time to have a proper conversation about health and wellbeing – practice your active listening skills and go beyond usual conversation to ask about what your staff member needs from their employer to be their best.
  • Team challenge – so many organised running races have moved to virtual. The brilliant thing about this is that for a small investment (anything from £8-£15) you could all move together (run, walk, jog, cycle…) to cover a certain distance over a period of time, and sign up together to get a medal for your reward (lots of these arrangements also raise money for charity at the same time). Try Medal Mad or Virtual Racing as a good starting point.

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