4 practices to become an agile leader with a remote team

social distance conference call 3 people and a monitor

Written by Luciana Paulise, Culture Coach, Book Author and Speaker at Biztorming

In the age of continuous evolution, especially after Covid-19, leaders need to learn new skills. Becoming more agile to work with a remote team and deal with an immediate crisis is key.

Before the pandemic, most leaders were expected to be in charge. Suddenly, the shift to a remote workforce and a more volatile environment posed tremendous challenges for them. Google Employees, for instance, will be able to work from home until summer 2021.

Especially if remote work starts to be the standard, organisations are expected to become more agile. Therefore, leaders need to increase their facilitation skills to enable team self-organisation.

One of the most important skills leaders have to develop is facilitating interactions to succeed in a changing environmentAs per the Mc Kinsey’s article, leaders need to work on “enabling the best in their people, rather than commanding it from them.” Leaders should no longer be in charge of telling their teams what to do, but they should empower employees to be self-organised. Like in sports, leaders can be outstanding performers, but you need a team to win a Championship.

Four CARE practices will help leaders to become more agile: connect, attend, respect and empower.

Under typical circumstances, connection with other human beings reduces stress, increases the sense of purpose and drives innovation. When disruption reaches social contact, the role of the leader is to generate alternatives to facilitate the connection.

Define what the purpose of your team is (beyond being profitable, think long term here), discuss it with your team and make sure everyone understands how they connect their actions to that purpose. Let’s say the goal is to give customers a unique experience. Check with your team how each of them feels they are contributing to it.

Communicate with your staff regularly and consistently, at the same time, to maintain a routine and ensure a safe space. Invite all members to turn on the video and maintain eye contact as much as possible. To increase engagement, reduce meetings to 30 minutes or less and invite every single member to speak up.

Attend actively to your clients and your employees

During a crisis, transparency is critical. Feeling safe is a basic human need, and crisis challenge this need, especially if there is a lack of communication.

As a leader, take more the role of observer and help your team make up their mind. Communicating updates is critical, but active listening is even more important. Encourage people to share information by democratising digital folders, documents and scoreboards. Provide access to trends, customer complaints, and future trends so that your team is better prepared to make decisions. Use pictures, images and videos to facilitate understanding. Create a safe space to make mistakes.

Respect: Every employee matters

Facilitating means that you trust you employees’ abilities, respect differences and value their strengths.  Tom Kolditz, in his book Extremis Leadership, says that “People need a calming influence, not a motivating influence, when under threat.”

The leader’s job is not to cheer up their team or tell them what to do. The focus is more on building trust, provide support and offer flexible options that accommodate different needs. As Covid-19 cases ramp up, empathizing with employees helps to figure out how to assist them. Some companies that used to provide food in-company are sending food to employee’s houses. Other companies, such as call centers, are providing flexible schedules.

Besides regular team meetings, do more frequent one-on-one sessions. The expert Michelle Tillis Lederman in her article “Connect during the crisis,” recommends you dare to ask questions such as “How are you handling?”. Especially when work is remote, feedback through email, or no feedback at all can hurt employees’ motivation tremendously. Concrete positive reinforcement has to be continuous, while negative feedback has to be straightforward and provided sooner than later.

Empower teams and unleash their strengths

After some time working remotely, some people may have learned to work autonomously, while others may still be struggling. During a hard time, leaders tend to micro-manage more than usual, but how do you micro-manage remotely? Simple, forget about it. Empower them instead.

Encourage associates to set up goals and to be owners of their work. Create an online environment where people feel safe to provide updates, offer ideas and ask for support. Make it more a pull system where they ask for help, not a push where you tell them what to do and when.

Making decisions during a crisis is like planning long term: everything is variable. While you empower your team, they will become sensors to help detect and deal with issues in the future more quickly than if you had to do it all by yourself.

A new way of leading

During this crisis, leaders need to unlearn and learn new ways to CARE for their people. Connect with them and their purpose more intentionally. Attend more actively than ever to detect unforeseen issues. Respect and value their skills, their personal needs and also their differences. And last but not least, empower them to decide how to do their work remotely with less supervision. It is just the beginning of a new way of leading.


Originally posted here

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