How to Win at Remote Leadership

When the pandemic began, and many employees had to transfer to the home office, it was
confusing at first. How is this going to turn out? Will all the work get done in time?

But pretty soon, it was clear that everything was going to be more than fine. Finally, we got an
opportunity to make the work environment as comfortable for us as possible. There’s even no
need to wear a costume. Well, at least the bottom part of it.

Working From Home Remote Work GIF by Crocs Europe Official Account

However, it’s been almost a year, and the world is still struggling to cope with the difficulties
brought by the virus. The uncertainty that accompanies these difficulties starts taking a toll on
the employees, bringing them into total despair. What seemed fun and easy at first now feels
almost unbearable, and most of us can’t wait to get back to normal.

The same goes for their leaders, many of whom had to go through an express course on how to properly manage remote teams but still often find that their relationships with their teams have significantly worsened.

Managers and Supervisors Struggle with Remote Leadership

A Harvard Business Review study revealed that many leaders experienced low self-confidence when asked about their preparedness and ability to run remote teams. 

The study surveyed 215 leaders from different organizations, showing the following results:

  • 40% of supervisors had low confidence in their ability to manage remote workers
  • 38% said that, in their opinion, remote workers performed worse than in-office workers
  • 41% of the respondents noted that remote workers couldn’t stay motivated for a long time, one of the reasons for their poor performance

However, the reason why leaders were so skeptical about their remote teams was not that their subordinates were not qualified. 

The study confirmed that there was a strong connection between the leadership style and the performance of the employees. In other words, the reason why these employees performed badly was that their managers didn’t pick the right leadership strategy. 

But, in defense of the leaders of remote teams, it’s not an easy job to do, and no course at university can possibly prepare you for that.

Especially in the current scenario. Many leaders were forced into their remote leadership role because of the pandemic, and many of them had no resources to ensure the high performance of their teams. 

If you are a leader of a remote team and you find yourself in a similar situation, these tips should help restore your relationship with your subordinates, build up your confidence, and finally win at remote leadership. 

1. Implement Weekly Check-In Meetings

How often do you talk to your remote team? 

If you say you text them every day on Slack and write a bunch of emails, that’s not what we’re talking about. 

How often do you have meaningful conversations with each member of your remote team?

Most likely, not that often. 

This is a common problem in remote leadership. Managers worry about the quality of performance, but if the performance is not satisfactory, they don’t usually bother to look beneath the surface. 

There might be quite a few issues that could lead to poor performance besides the lack of skill or experience. We are living in a time when something can happen at any moment, especially this year, which has become the definition of ‘unexpected.’ 

If you’ve noticed your team’s morale plummeting, it’s time for a sincere talk. But it shouldn’t look like a reproof but rather a meaningful heart-to-heart conversation. 

To get your team more motivated and to prevent further drops in performance, you can implement weekly check-in meetings. Dorian Martin, a team leader of remote writers at TrustMyPaper, notes that it’s better to have these meetings one-on-one, as it makes the employees feel more comfortable and open. 

If you want to get the most out of these meetings, it would be nice to run them in the following way:

  • Start the meeting with something positive. It can be the employee’s personal win, accomplishment, or contribution that would cheer them up, set a motivating tone for the conversation, and make you both comfortable. 
  • Ask about their problems and provide possible solutions. If your team member is not performing well, ask them if they have noticed that and what they think you can do as a leader to fix that. You can also offer a suitable solution yourself. 
  • Encourage any questions. Weekly check-ins are your employees’ time to shine. Let your team member speak and share their thoughts on a certain subject, as well as ask you questions. 

During such meetings, it’s important to ensure complete anonymity. The goal of weekly check-ins is to establish trust between you and each of your team members. It’s a poor practice to discuss performance issues in front of an entire team, so if you want to fix performance issues, it’s better to do that in private.

2. Assess Your Remote Leadership Style

Many managers aren’t always aware of their leadership style. The way they manage their remote teams often has to do with their personalities and the goals they are trying to achieve. 

However, it often happens that a manager’s leadership style doesn’t sit well with the team. As a result, the team’s performance and motivation drop, sometimes resulting in increased turnover. 

To prevent that from happening in your remote team, you need to assess your remote leadership style from time to time. And one of the most effective ways to do it is to ask your employees for feedback. 

For instance, you can do a quick anonymous “How much do you agree with this statement?” survey, in which your employees can evaluate your performance as a leader. Here are a few statements that you can use in such a survey:

  • My manager provides clear goals for me.
  • I have enough freedom at my job and don’t feel limited by my manager. 
  • My manager is a role model for the entire team. 
  • The feedback and input I give matter to my leader.
  • My manager tries to be honest when evaluating my performance. 
  • My manager has provided me with all the resources to work remotely. 
  • With my manager, I have all the opportunities to learn and grow. 
  • My manager has regular one-on-one meetings with me. 
  • I get feedback from my manager regularly. 

You can put any questions into your survey, but they should review your activity as a leader from different perspectives. To write content for your surveys, you can use such tools as TopEssayWriting, Survey Monkey, and SupremeDissertations which also have editors and proofreading tools to help make your surveys clear and spotless.

Example of Leadership Assessment Survey BY SurveyMonkey

Once you get the results of your survey, it’s important to reflect on them and identify the reasons why your employees gave this feedback. It would also be great to follow-up this survey with a one-on-one meeting. Ask them questions and get more insights on how effective your remote leadership style is.

3. Spend Time with Your Team Beyond Work

When the lockdown started, some leaders believed that their employees now had time to work more and longer. And, many of their subordinates did, as, according to HR Dive, an average employee started to put in an extra hour of work per week. 

Besides, for many employees, overworking also became a solution to cope with the stress caused by the pandemic. But this coping mechanism brings no good neither to your employees nor to you as a leader. It negatively affects work-life balance and causes stress. 

Usually, to help your employees unwind, you would organize events where you could get together and talk about things other than work. But is it possible now?

Yes, thanks to online video chatting, you can do different types of activities, from watching a movie together to simply have a conversation over a glass of wine.

All Rise Zoom GIF by CBS

And, with the holidays coming, you can still have fun with your team. Organize holiday parties like virtual secret Santa, online holiday bingo, an annual awards party, and even a scavenger hunt. 

But to get the most out of these activities, make sure you involve your employees in preparing them. It will help your remote team bond together. It will also allow you as their leader to learn more about their personalities. 

Remote Leadership is About Openness, Empathy, and Trust

As a remote team manager, you need to do everything to have these qualities dominate your leadership style. 

You can achieve that by getting closer to each of your team members and approaching them with empathy. Start by having weekly one-on-one check-ins with them. Discuss their struggles and find effective solutions if their performance starts to suffer. 

Also, assessing your remote leadership style could help a lot to become a better remote team manager. You can run surveys from time to time, asking your employees to share feedback on how they view you as a leader.

Lastly, don’t forget to spend more time with your team outside of work. It will help you build a strong bond with your team members and understand their personalities better. 

These three steps will help you start feeling more confident as a leader. And your team will definitely confirm that you have won at remote leadership. 

Nicole Garrison, our guest author for this post, is a content strategist, writer, and contributor at a number of platforms for marketing specialists. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research. In her free time, Nicole is a passionate runner and a curious beekeeper. Moreover, she runs her own blog LiveInspiredMagazine.