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What makes a good remote leader?

It’s not surprising that certain support systems make remote work more effective. Leadership is one of the most significant ones.

Employees' current experience directly impacts how much they want a remote future. Moving forward, workplaces are likely to be more complex and dynamic, with economic volatility, potential second waves, and teams working both on-site and remotely. Equipping leaders to coach team members to perform at their best inside and out of the office can help employees to adjust to the changes presented by the pandemic and provides an opportunity to learn in the long term.

Remote outcomes depend on the leader

According to Gallup’s research, the way a job is structured and managed has far greater impact on remote workers than any operational factors. Leaders of remote teams need to be exceptionally clear in setting their expectations and intentional about coaching through regular conversations. Over the last six months many leaders have learnt that leading employees who work remotely is a whole new experience with different demands. Open communication on regular basis allows leaders to learn and collectively solve challenges employees who work remotely might be facing. As leaders create and follow their plans to transition back to the office, they need to take employee preferences into account, focusing on engagement and employee wellbeing as they will have a substantial impact on business performance.

Employees who work remotely still need their psychological needs to be met and this includes being noticed, recognised and appreciated for their contribution. Because of the nature of remote working, remote teams miss out on spontaneous recognition. Ironically, even though standard recognition might have disappeared, many employees really stepped up in response to the crisis. Many remote employees have shown flexibility, agility and creativity while working remotely, and leaders must recognise their contribution. Whilst technology-based recognition tools can support the culture of recognition, the most meaningful feedback that is authentic and individual, needs to come from the leader. When leaders recognise others, they are acting as role models and when others see recognition on regular basis, it becomes part of the company culture.

From reacting to acting

Even though the pandemic continues to create a lot of uncertainty, leaders need to shift from reacting to acting on the crisis and focusing on long term goals. In this next phase, leadership is critical both in ensuring that workplace learning becomes part of company culture and in taking care of people. Leaders should think of this next phase as a marathon, rather than a sprint, so they need to focus on re-inventing business models for next year and beyond, whilst exercising certain capabilities such as willingness to change.

The need for strategic speed has never been greater. Leaders need to speed up decision making, deploy agile teams and empower future leaders. This new way of working requires re-imagining the workforce from the top down and considering changing how work gets done, whilst focusing on investment in ongoing learning. To meet the needs of remote workers, leaders need to move from being a boss to be a coach and focus on establishing expectations and accountability.

When leaders make purpose part of every day’s work, they can help employees to navigate uncertainty and keep them engaged and motivated. Now, more than ever leaders need to walk the talk and create a strong sense of purpose and psychological safety. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off the shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at

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