The Challenge of Leading From a Distance

As virtual teams become more and more a reality for growing numbers of people, leading them effectively is critical…
–Carl Eidson

Gone are the days when a leader and team members are all in one location. Leadership has taken on new challenges with the need to be effective across time zones, understand cultural differences, and keep telecommuters engaged and productive.

The number of remote workers is staggering. Reports show:

  • 64 million U.S employees hold a job that allows some telework
  • 50 million workers both could and want to telework
  • Roughly 4.5 million people telework daily
  • 20 – 30 million work from home at least one day per week

A primary reason for NOT exercising the telework option is “job security.”

What does this mean to you as a leader?         

As a leader, regardless of where your staff is located, make certain that common goals are clearly understood, encourage your team to value one another’s strengths, and provide one another other with healthy, timely feedback.

13 Tips For Leading From a Distance

Leading remotely also means you need to be an even more skilled and effective communicator. Here are some tips to be a great leader for your team, especially when remote workers are involved.

1. Don’t communicate just the bare minimum.

Share what is expected of each individual and each location and include the “big picture” and desired results.

2. Conduct weekly team meetings.

Skype and other video chat options provide a great way to connect and link names with faces while keeping everyone on the same page.

3. Ensure all interactions end with closure.

This means that everyone involved knows who is going to do what when.

4. Check in regularly with each employee.

You’ll find that some are happy to hear from you only if you/they need something, where others may want more frequent contact (weekly if not daily).

5. Revisit the team goals and objectives.

Use “here’s where we are” statements, ask questions, and invite everyone to share their opinion and thoughts about the progress that is being made.

6. Ask your direct reports what they’d like to hear about.

In addition, ask for their feedback as to whether you are keeping them adequately informed.

7. Create an information checklist.

This should detail what information needs to go to whom.

8. Leverage email to communicate general information.

Use your checklist to aid with identifying whether the entire team needs to be in the loop or not. When in doubt, over-communicate.

9. Determine how the team wants to work together.

Ask: What are the dependencies?

10. Expect conflict and encourage healthy differences.

Conflict is natural to human interaction, but it doesn’t need to be a bad thing. In fact, a difference of opinions and multiple ideas how to solve a problem is healthy for an organization/team and promotes creative solutions.

11. Establish best practices.

This could include developing a list of characteristics associated with high-performing teams. Set and communicate expectations and consistently reward and recognize results.

12. Encourage your team to value one another’s strengths.

Have them provide each other with healthy, timely feedback which will ultimately build trust. As we all know, effective communication is a must but trust is the basis for strong and successful teams!

13. Support and “sell” your team!

Keep your boss and other leaders informed of your teams’ accomplishments and successes!

Let us know your tips for leading from a distance!