Most businesses are switching to either a remote or hybrid model to help employees in these pandemic times, and employees are loving the freedom in which it brings. I’ve seen more than a couple managers struggle with this change, so if you have felt this way, you are not alone. Most managers are used to being able to see the people they are leading, and without that, it makes it harder.
I like to not look at this as a challenge, and more of a shift that should make managers up their game, per se. I think many managers tend to use seeing people in the office as a crutch to good leadership. Relying on keeping an eye on your team, was nice, but now you need to become a better leader by being more deliberate in what you are doing with your team.
So what do I mean by being more deliberate? Well, some managers are used to being in the office and hands-off unless something needed to be done, and then finding the person with the least load, and assigning them the task. That’s easy when you can easily see all your team, but remotely, you need to be actively more aware of the workload and what tasks might be coming to your team. It’s switching from a passive to an active leadership strategy.
I think this may be a controversial statement, but I think the office environment helps mediocre managers. If you communicate something wrong, you can see your mistake and correct it and continue to make those mistakes. While remote management is less forgiving in this manner, you may not catch a miscommunication until hours later. If a team member is struggling, it’s easier to see that in an office environment, and you’ll need to improve your skills to catch this remotely.
Communication is a key thing, that I’ve heard and seen many managers struggle within this remote environment. There is way more communication than there was in the office, but that doesn’t mean that the communication is better. There’s a balance that needs to be struck, and a more direct and succinct direction given. Think of communication as a wild animal, that needs to be tamed to do what we need it to do, not over-communicate and not under-communicate, something that strikes balance, and that’s not easy.
Goal setting is something that you’d expect every leader to have, and while I wish that was the case, it’s not. Most leaders have a solid handle on what the task is but may miss “why” is this task important. In an office setting, some people can learn this through talking with coworkers naturally, but you need to make sure your team still gets the bigger picture.
While all this discussion has been about existing teams, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the leadership skills when it comes to new hires. Every job I’ve had, I’ve had the advantage of sitting with or near my teammates. This let me naturally pick up the flow of the job, rules of the job, and even the knowledge I needed to be successful. Remotely you’ll need to encourage that in your team and be an active part of it, rather than most leaders’ formerly passive approach.
I’d like to put it this way, I’ve yet to be at a company where I haven’t leaned on a team member who’s been there forever to point me in the right direction or help influence someone to assist me in getting a task done. They have the built-in trust of other employees that carry weight or help you through a process. I’ve yet to be at a place, that was so perfectly documented that I didn’t need that assistance, it’s hard for a new person to navigate that.
So all this is to say, take this opportunity, while remote to make yourself a better leader. Take some time to adjust your previous strategies, talk candidly with your employees, make sure you use clearer communication, don’t over-communicate, don’t under-communicate, and most importantly, if you do go back in the office…don’t let these skill improvements fade and lean on the crutch of mediocre leaders.