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.
Communication and Connection
Change Leadership, not just change management
Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
KEY #5: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
We have explored the importance of connecting, not just communicating. Leading with emotional intelligence goes hand in hand. Empathy is being able to communicate and connect with others through understanding their thoughts, feelings, and emotions - and as a leader, putting yourself in the shoes of those you lead.
Emotion is energy in motion. High energy (positive) can increase productivity and successful results. Low energy (negative) can lead to low productivity. Now is the time to take charge of your thoughts, emotions and the way you deal with problems as the leader. Problems are simply opportunities for growth and rising above to something greater.
Positivity is the fuel for productivity. When the chips are down, you can choose to either get caught up in all the negativity surrounding you, or you can choose to do something positive about it. There’s always a choice. As a leader, your team is looking at and to you. They need guidance, reassurance, and leadership during times of uncertainty, change, and crisis.
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.
Good leaders are great listeners and also ask great questions. Some questions you may be asking of yourself as we all navigate changes daily across the world:
How do I keep morale and productivity high since my team will be distributed?
What can we do to communicate differently if we can’t be face-to-face?
How do I emotionally support my team and allay their fears about uncertainty?
What questions are you asking your team?
* The first question should be, "how are you doing - really"
After you ask the question - pause and listen. Truly and actively listen. This is where high EQ and empathy are paramount to building leadership trust and helping your remote teams feel connected.
There are a few other key things leaders can do to effectively lead best with remote teams:
Foster a culture of sharing. Remote teams - especially people new to working at home - lack the ability to be in close proximity. This can lead to isolation or lack of balance between work and home life. An easy way to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people you lead, is to meet with them. Invest time not only in corporate business update meetings with your team, but also consider hosting virtual coffee breaks. Tools like Skype, Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or other methods can be a fun and meaningful way to build connections. I also highly recommend starting your 1:1's and team meetings with an exercise called Minute to Arrive. This is a mindfulness technique that can lower stress, improve focus, foster deeper connections, and relax participants which opens their minds and creativity. You can learn more about this technique and how to apply it here.
Understand what others are experiencing. Your role as the leader is to facilitate opportunities for your team to thrive, while also ensuring goals and expectations are clear, are being measured and shared, and that you are investing your time communicating and connecting with the team to help them see they are on the right track, going in the right direction, at the right speed, for the right reasons. When teams are new to working remotely or are experiencing stressful situations like COVID-19, leaders need to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of those we lead. Perhaps you have teammates who are balancing working from home, while their kids are also learning how to adapt to having school at home. This is very disruptive for many people and can increase stress. Perhaps people you lead are fearful for their health and safety, have family members that are at high risk for becoming ill, family members who may have lost jobs, or just the fear of the unknown. Did you know the majority of people are change and risk averse. Over 70% of the population fear instability and lack of routine. Do you know the personalities of your team? Do you know the behavioral profile of yourself under normal conditions as well as when you are under stress? If not, then consider tools like DISC. If you are interested in a 1:1 assessment, coaching, or team overview and workshop, let me know. DISC is the best tool I have found for dealing with emotional intelligence and empathy for leading well especially when under stress and during crisis. I am certified to administer DISC as well as teach and consult.
Take some time to think about your own self-awareness. Are you managing, or leading? What feelings do you have about change? How are you coping with or handling stress? How are you showing up for yourself and for others? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you know what your team is going through? Have you taken the time to express with empathy and understanding by listening and sharing your heart? Loss of security, change (and especially during a crisis), inflames this fear. Leaders can lead best and well when understanding the strengths and fears of their teams, putting yourself in the shoes of those you lead, and understanding their behavioral style - especially when under stress.
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.
If you would like to dig in deeper on how to lead and serve your people better, I would love to share more with you about DISC human behavior assessments for individuals and teams. Additionally, let me recommend the 2 books "The Leaders Greatest Return" by John Maxwell and "The 6 Stages of Cultural Mastery" by Ricardo Gonzalez. If you are interested in 1:1 coaching on this key, would like to join a small group study on the books, or are interested in how you can leverage these materials and tools for your team, reach out email@example.com.