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How to master leadership in a remote work environment

The supreme quality of a leader is the ability to communicate effectively with the people whom they lead.

However, the absence of in-person supervision, especially that of physical proximity, creates a communication gap.

The development of leadership skills in the given scenario entails the shedding of outdated practices and the adoption of new efficient and effective methods. While the effectiveness of your leadership is dependent on the quantity and quality of work that you get done, your efficiency as a leader is linked to your ability to do the right kind of work in a given time. You can achieve the nexus between effective and efficient leadership by using the new paradigm of leadership skills.

Whether you are a workplace leader or a team member, this article gives tips on great leadership in a remote work environment.

1. Be Proactive in Resolving Conflict

When there is a massive and sudden change in a workplace and communication is limited, people tend to make up stories to explain unanswered questions as a way of resolving their uncertainty. In an office environment, it is easy to alleviate some of that since, when questions and concerns arise, leaders can often step in to address them. But in a virtual work environment, the natural release via hallway conversations is absent.

Emotions overlooked in the remote environment may erupt into the clouds of negative comments, which may be hard to resolve.

When dealing with conflict in this work setting, leaders should maintain the conversations on an individual level. Any crisis calls for a leader’s intervention through active communication.

For example, small teams can have ‘all hands meetings’ where they discuss the state of the team, issues that come up, future initiatives, feedback, etc. In the meeting, team members should have space and time to raise their concerns. Show intention to address the issue, and your team will follow suit. In the end, you solidify a robust culture that makes people feel comfortable with virtual conversations.

2. Promote Social Interaction

A great leader must take social interaction seriously for them to run a successful remote team. You can foster interaction and creativity by encouraging rich communications via phones and webcams. Allow employees to share about their personal lives, what they did over the weekend, etc. Encouraging casual conversations and recognizing that your teammates have things they like in their personal space is a powerful incentive to foster social interactions.

You can build dedicated channels for every team where members can hold such discussions and hold a virtual team-building activity to foster closeness. Managers and leaders can also make people feel part of the team by stepping back and allowing employees to reach out to each other without serving as mediators.

3. Foster Trust Through Strong Communication

Fostering trust is crucial in a virtual environment since it is the first step to building a positive corporate culture. With trust, team members are more willing to collaborate and align around a common purpose. But that can happen only when there is strong communication.

Unfortunately, virtual communication often strips nuance and context from conversations making the relationships suffer. A great leader can schedule individual conversations to know how their team members feel and what’s important to them. It is possible by asking questions such as how they prefer to communicate, the kind of support they need, and how best they can work together in such an environment.

Therefore, one must be an active listener to get the team’s feelings, facts, and values. You can direct the conversation in a direction with queries that don’t have yes or no answers. For example, how can I help you with this task? What are your biggest hindrances currently? Personal check-ins such as how is your family? How are you coping with the current situation? Resist the temptation of being generally task-focused since it makes you overlook people’s values and feelings, the two drivers of employee motivation and behavior.

4. Establish Productivity Expectations

Boundaries are important to promote and maintain a healthy work/life balance. Great leaders work with the team to set personal boundaries. For example, you have employees in different parts of the country. There is no problem blocking your calendar from 5 pm so that no one schedules a meeting outside of your ‘working hours.’ While the team should be clear on what you expect them to deliver, they should also have time to make lunch, go for walks, get coffee, etc.

As a good leader, you should encourage such boundaries. Communicate with your teammates about the boundaries to avoid violating each other’s personal space with work-related issues.

5. Lead with Empathy

An excellent remote leader is one who can get in touch with team members at an emotional level. Besides, they should maintain transparent and honest communication when sharing sensitive information such as status updates, to preserve the integrity and maintain the credibility of the data they share.

Engage with your team at a personal level by asking about their well-being, families, or hobbies. You can empathize with them to display a mutual understanding, allowing them to know that you see them as humans and not just employees.

Make it easy for the teammates to ask for help. You can schedule time for people to exchange help or show gratitude they have received. Besides, allow the employees to open up when they have concerns or feel stressed and try to put a plan to support them. For example, you can establish a mental support program. Leading with empathy allows leaders to foster an element of humanity in the detached, remote environment. That allows every team member to feel part of a live community.

6. Provide Feedback

Employees need to receive feedback; otherwise, they assume they are either failing miserably or doing outstanding. Being in such a situation can cause a lot of stress, which can be worse when they work remotely.

Great leaders should not leave the team wondering and should actively engage in feedback, address areas of improvement, and praise accomplishments. A remote work environment is different from an office setting where you can pass by a staff’s desk and give them a high-five. A leader must be more purposeful when giving feedback and make it a routine. For example, you can introduce weekly feedback when you give compliments and address areas that the team can improve.


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