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5 Keys To Leading Remote Teams - Key #3


For the past decade I have worked and led teams globally from a remote home-based office. Leading remote teams can be very rewarding.


Working remotely may be new for many people experiencing changes since COVID-19. Some people may have to adjust to separating work from home-life, may need the right tools to track progress and productivity, may feel disconnected not being physically around people, or just need some additional structure to stay engaged.


|We are exploring 5 keys to successfully lead remote teams. As leaders, our main priority is serving our people. By developing and implementing these keys, leaders leading teams of any size, in any geography, leaders can be most successful during times of transition, change, stress, and crisis.

  1. Building trust

  2. Communication and Connection

  3. Employee Engagement

  4. Change Leadership, not just change management

  5. Emotional Intelligence and Empathy


KEY #3: Employee Engagement


Engagement is the crucial third key in leading remote teams wells.

Are you engaged at the deepest levels of knowing what your employees want and need during these times of uncertainty?


As a leader of remote teams, you cannot see the people, may be working in different time zones, or all be working on different projects and programs and unable to be synchronized fully throughout your day.


There are a few key things leaders can do to effectively drive employee engagement best with remote teams:

  • Each of us have a unique blend of personality behaviors. Some of us like to work alone, adapt to change well, and are very comfortable and confident moving into remote workplaces. I have worked remotely for over a decade and LOVE IT. However, there are others of us that want and need to have human interaction, stable environments, less change, and more communication. What are key contributors to success for your teammates? What are the key detractors or fears of your teammates? Do you know how your own personality works alongside the personalities of your team? There is a great tool available called DISC that helps you understand your style and that of your team. It is a A+ tool for improving engagement, communication, collaboration, and building trust - all the things we have been exploring the last few days.

  • Make work/life balance a priority. I always tell my team there is no such thing as work life balance. You have a life and work is part of it. However, for some, working remotely at home, while dealing with kids who may also be schooling-at-home, or dealing with uncertainties or illness, can be challenging. The best ways leaders can improve employee engagement is to ensure that your team has the tools they need, that you are responsive to their needs and concerns, empathetic to how they feel, aligned on the goals and direction of the team, and that you are leading well from in front, next to, and behind your team. These are the key principles of what we call the #beREAL culture. Leaders cannot do everything, but they can do something - which is to help your teammates adapt and adjust to working remotely. That means staying connected and engaged more frequently. Even when you go back to the office - think about how much time you engage with the team 'on the floor' versus inside your office. Are you creating a culture of sharing and learning? Perhaps consider a virtual coffee hour for a time of just sharing, not directing. Right now, SAP Qualtrics is offering a really cool tool called Remote Work Plus, to help leaders assess the wellbeing of their remote workers.

  • Lead by example. Leadership starts with you. My mentor John Maxwell teaches that "leadership is about influence, nothing more, nothing less." All it takes is a click on a search to see great leaders talking with their teams about hope, courage, commitment, perseverance, empathy, humanity. What are you modeling as the leader? During times of uncertainty and change (especially right now with COVID-19), teams can become dis-engaged. How are you showing up as the leader? Are you fully engaged? Are you inspiring and motivating the team? Are you recognizing good work? Taking the time to reach out 1:1 and with team communication? Your team is looking up to you. During times like these, now more than ever your team is watching. Who are you? What are your values? What type of climate are you creating? Does the team trust you? Have you established structure and goals? Improving employee engagement starts with you. Who you are and how you behave impacts overall engagement and team performance.

“The more change we confront, the more important it is to understand how our people are feeling and adjusting to what may seem like a new normal on a daily basis. While we are all adapting to different work and collaboration models, the newness and the experiences are all unique to each of us depending on our job or industry. Understanding, acknowledging, and acting on the challenges and questions our employees have will help us equip them to navigate this new normal. All of us want employees who feel safe and productive, but it starts with understanding how they feel and what they need." To that end, Qualtrics has helped us get to the heart of every employee and we have opened up the same listening platform for any who need it. Check out the link I shared above. It is FREE. It can help.

Remember, the objective of a good leader, is to serve. Serving is an action. It requires the action of engagement.


Employee Engagement is the extent to which employees think, feel, and act in ways that represent high levels of commitment to your organization. Engaged employees are motivated to contribute 100% of their knowledge, skills, and abilities to help the organization succeed. We all care deeply about our companies, want to contribute to its success, and have peak experiences at work. Dig deeper as a leader and look at your employee engagement. This means taking the time to listen, ask questions, listen some more, and then take action.


Leadership is the response-ability to build and maintain a high performing team, and is the fundamental resource for team survival (and thriving) and effectiveness. Engagement is the tie that binds the leader to a high performing team. Great leaders engage followers, and harness their energy to perform to their highest ability.


If you would like to dig in deeper on how to engage better and deeper, I would love to share more with you about DISC human behavior assessments for individuals and teams. Additionally, let me recommend the 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell. If you are interested in 1:1 coaching on this key, would like to join a small group study on the book, or are interested in how you can leverage these materials and tools for your team, reach out info@schoolofthoughts.net.

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