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Combating remote leadership challenges


More and more companies are pursuing a no-office movement. This trend toward remote work is not just about reducing real estate costs or developing new business models, it represents a change in the way we work.


However, the globally distributed model isn’t without disadvantages, including warning signs of excess stress being harder for managers to detect among a distributed team. In the remote environment, leaders have the ability to create the conditions for employees to feel more comfortable approaching their managers and coworkers about their mental health, and they can also encourage others to be transparent about their struggles, and lead by example.


Creating an office culture outside of the office


For office-based employees, company culture focuses on intangible elements such as work socials or ad hoc stand up meetings. But for employees who work remotely or are in a hybrid team, these methods of creating a sense of camaraderie aren’t as easy. Fully remote and hybrid teams call for a new type of culture that enables every member to feel that they are equally involved and engaged.


Leaders play an important role in setting this example. It’s very easy for working time to bleed into leisure time, and remote workers can feel pressure to be available 24/7 and resistant to taking breaks or pushing back on deadlines. By creating boundaries and encouraging remote workers to take care of themselves, they can help avoid burnout. In a remote setting, it’s hard to gauge the emotional reaction of a remote team, so leaders may find themselves missing key emotional cues. Understanding the true meaning of what people say is invaluable as we can't get to know someone until we understand how their words fit in with their body language and the tone of their voice.


Remote leaders need to provide clarity, empathy and transparency to employees. Being clear on expectations, priorities and how communication will work, leaders can ensure the message they are sending is understood. Empathetic, clear, and transparent communication allows employees to work effectively and autonomously without feeling lost or uncertain about what needs to be done and why. There’s a fine balance between intruding on the autonomy of remote employees and ensuring they are aligned with business priorities. When managing hybrid teams, leaders need to trust remote employees with enough autonomy for them to make quick decisions and keep moving forward.


Balancing trust and autonomy


Remote workers are looking for more flexibility. Allowing employees to balance life and work by offering them a flexible schedule whenever possible will help them to focus on the outcome of their work and not just office hours. Too often, leaders try to control their team and micromanage processes. While this approach may minimise errors in the short run, it can also have long-term negative effects on productivity and performance. The way to get employees to perform better is not by telling them what to do; but rather, by empowering them. Remote leaders should give employees freedom but also make sure that there are clear expectations, allowing them to make decisions within those boundaries and act as a guide or resource when needed. This in return will develop loyal, highly productive employees who enjoy their jobs.


Remote leadership can be challenging. It requires leaders to be flexible, adaptive, and willing to learn from their mistakes. They also need to have a solid understanding of the unique challenges that come with leading a remote team. There is no template for remote leadership. Effective style depends on the individual, his or her team, and industry needs and some leadership styles fit some teams better than others. What's important is knowing what works and what doesn't for a team.


At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering training and development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops, and coaching programs, ranging from communication skills 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 programs for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programs please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.