Is remote leadership part of the new normal?
Digitalisation, globalisation, flexibility, and remote employment – these are just some of the ways the world of work is evolving. As a business leader, do you have the skills you need to help navigate it with your newly agile workforce?
While many key skills, such as resilience and adaptability, are still relevant, others require a rethink or flex to meet a new standard of best practice. And with 77% of adults reporting that they would be willing to learn new skills now, or completely retrain, to improve their future employability, there’s never been a better time to assess your own capabilities.
Old world: Effective written and verbal communication skills have always helped leaders build good working relationships with everyone from suppliers and potential investors, to customers and employees. Pre-pandemic, good body language and a firm handshake were also important.
New world: In the world of remote work and distributed workers, communication is more important than ever before – especially with leaders having to do it from behind a computer. If the majority of your communication is through email or text-based chat, it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure you’re being as clear as possible – while still staying polite and friendly.
In fact, you may also want to rethink how much time you’re spending on the keyboard and start making yourself more visible to your colleagues and employees on video calls. “The more uncertain or challenging the circumstances, the more important it is for leaders to be visible,” recommends leadership strategist, Tara J. Rethore. “All leaders can communicate important messages about the team’s work, progress toward shared goals, required changes, etc. visually – via livestream, video-conference platforms or simply a video file embedded in a text or email that can be viewed on mobile devices.”
2. Delegation and management
Old world: Failure to delegate was a trap some business owners fell into, usually because they were reluctant to let go of control. Good leaders found a way to manage their time effectively by delegating responsibility to someone else in the business or outsourcing.
New world: It can be helpful to realise that most people want to do a good job at work, whether they are physically present or not. They want their company to be successful and they want to contribute to that success. Once you know this, it’s easier to see how much of leading remotely is about empowering your staff to do the work you’ve asked them to do – and trusting that it will get done. “Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President, Gartner.
Exchanging trust for managerial control was critical for the success of homeworking, found a study by Acas. Managers felt that difficulties in managing flexible workers could be minimised through effective communications. This was particularly important in terms of ensuring that work could be completed on time, with deadlines and targets being met.
3. Project management and planning
Old world: Starting and running a business meant managing a range of projects and developing a range of policies and procedures. You also knew how to effectively manage your resources, including time, money and staff.
New world: Operating online means you can take advantage of lots of tools to help with all of the same tasks as before. You may find this actually works better for your business, as you’re able to more easily document processes and decisions – and ensure that your employees are all clearly briefed and accountable.
Plenty of tools exist to help you plan and project manage across dispersed teams, from work management platforms to time-zone schedulers. Empowering your colleagues to also use these platforms should be a priority for leaders, so invest in training wherever you can.
Old world: Building good relationships through networking helped grow your business and give you the support you needed.
New world: Networking may have moved online for the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. From team meetings and wider networking opportunities, knowing how to get involved and how to make the most of the video medium will contribute to the future success of your business. “Using your spare time while under lockdown is a way of laying the foundation for future growth for when the pandemic comes to an end,” recommends Dr Jo Webber, CEO of social networking app Pod.
From improving your profile on LinkedIn to joining virtual alumni events, it’s important to invest time and energy in building up your contacts and staying in touch with those you already have.
Businesses today need more flexibility than ever, with scalable workspace that makes sense for today. Create a flexible way of working that is good for your people and great for business.