Successfully leading remote and hybrid teams requires different skills to ensure team alignment and engagement. There are some leadership styles that can be detrimental when applied to a remote or hybrid team, and you need to be proactive in addressing those issues before there is a cultural breakdown.
In You Can’t Herd Electric Sheep: Leadership Post-COVID, author and CPED instructor Shawn Belling outlined some of the characteristics needed from organizational leaders and managers to effectively lead in today’s virtual business environment.
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Leadership Today – What’s the Problem?
The days of insisting employees be in the office 100% of the time, or “butts in seats” leadership, are long gone. If you feel you must physically see your employees in order to lead them, you need to reconsider your approach. The ways in which we do our best work have changed and that means leadership styles need to change, too.
Today, leadership is about trusting your employees no matter where they are and no matter when they’re working. Results matter more than time spent in the office, attending meetings, or having facetime with others. The mentality successful leaders need to have is that if you can’t trust an employee whether they’re working from across the room or across the country, they’re not the right fit for the job. This is not only a management challenge – this is also a hiring challenge. Leaders of remote and hybrid teams must focus on hiring for trust with their teams as well as building a culture that assumes and values trust and accountability.
Destructive Leadership Styles When Leading Remote Teams
Some managers feel that employees don’t naturally want to work. They believe that employees are motivated through rewards, require a high-level degree over supervision, and deserve negative consequences for not working. Typically, these are the managers that are unsuccessful when leading remote and hybrid teams. If you feel you fall into this category, ask yourself why this is the case for you. Seriously consider whether this approach is effective in this age of remote work and advanced technology. While this might be what you’ve always been used to doing, it is a destructive approach for your remote work or hybrid environment.
Many organizations that support this type of management style are hierarchical with several management layers designed to provide supervision and accountability. If you don’t necessarily operate in this nature but your organization does, remember that it’s also quite limiting, disruptive, and will negatively impact your organizations long-term success, so reevaluating your approach might be necessary.
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Effective Remote Leadership
As we mentioned before, the outcomes of the work being done is the most important metric in virtual work, so your ideal remote team leader is your classic servant leader. This individual is considered reliable, collaborative, and looking to remove any impediments in the way of the team getting things done. These leaders are trusted individuals, respectful, caring, and emotionally and culturally aware. They inspire what Shawn refers to as “swift trust” or being able to establish trust and get work done together right away without meeting each other in person. They know how to foster this throughout the entire team and can quickly adapt to challenges.
Successful remote leaders generally believe that people enjoy working, that work is a natural and productive part of the human condition and therefore people find satisfaction and self-expression in working. This assumes that people are self-motivated and want to take ownership and responsibility. Often, the organizations that best support this type of leadership are flatter and more collaborative in management style. This approach is a natural fit for remote working as it creates an environment where people can thrive. As you and your organization further consider the benefits of hybrid and remote working teams, evaluate the extent to which this leadership style is present in your organization.
Whether leading a remote or hybrid team is new for you or you’re a seasoned expert, there’s no doubt that this style of working takes time to adjust to, teamwork to nurture trust, and agility to make it successful. For more advice from Shawn on approaches to help make your teams thrive while fostering teamwork and a strong organizational culture, you can watch the rest of the webinar. If you’d like to ensure your organization’s leaders are well equipped to lead from anywhere, set up a Discovery Session with our Solutions Advisors.