The Role of the Leader in the Remote Working Employee Experience
The employee experience is a critical component of high-performing remote teams. Integral to this is the role of the leader. It is he or she who fosters a culture of trust and transparency in which people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. The leader can also keep remote workers engaged and motivated, making sure that they have clear communication policies in place so that employees understand expectations for them.
How can leaders help create a better employee experience in a remote environment?
Though remote work is gaining in popularity, there are still challenges when it comes to creating an employee experience that is positive and productive, and when developing a remote work environment that is conducive to developing high-performing teams.
These 11 tips will help leaders of remote teams to lead them effectively.
1. Hire the right people
The best people for remote teams are those who can be productive without the constant supervision of their manager or coworkers. They should be self-motivated learners, technically adept, and highly collaborative with an open personality. People who are not risk-averse, but who are highly accountable.
2. Set clear expectations
It is crucial to set clear expectations for the team and its members. Leaders should fully understand their own responsibility to provide guidance and leadership to remote team members and to keep the team on the same page with project scope, deadlines, and deliverables.
3. Manage accountability
To lead remote teams effectively, managers must manage the accountability of their team members. They should be able to clearly communicate expectations, keep track of progress, and know when they need to step in with guidance or leadership. To manage accountability effectively, leaders should:
- Clearly communicate the scope of accountability of each team member
- Agree on a timetable for every project and assignment
- Monitor progress by scheduling regular check-ins
- Avoid playing the blame game if deadlines are missed
4. Communicate effectively and consistently
When well-led, a remote team can be more productive, collaborative, and agile than its on-site counterpart. However, the team manager must ensure that team members are working effectively and consistently. This requires a lot of effort and discipline. To achieve this, it is not enough to just be able to talk with team members every day. Team leaders must be able to communicate in an effective manner, motivating employees with clear expectations and the sharing of vision.
5. Build team cohesion
Team cohesion ─ the ability of the team to work as one ─ is crucial. Remote teams are more likely to have lower levels of cohesion due to the lack of face-to-face interactions and the difficulty in maintaining relationships with people who are geographically dispersed. For remote teams to be cohesive, they must be given clear instructions from their managers, engaged in the vision and mission of the organisation, and feel they are working toward a collective purpose and goal.
6. Provide a safe space for employees to share their ideas
To promote collaboration, cohesion, and creativity, remote employees must be given a safe space to share ideas. This may be via one-to-ones with managers, in virtual team meetings, or by using technologies to provide channels of communication. Whatever the method selected (and those mentioned are by no means an exhaustive list of opportunities), team leaders must ensure that people feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
7. Create context by painting the big picture for the team
It is critical that leaders create the context for the team, helping the team and each member to understand how what they do connects to the big picture. Leaders of remote teams should find ways to bring this big picture to life as they:
- Describe the overall goals of the business and how each team member contributes
- Establish individual roles and the role of the team within the organisation
- Lay out accountabilities, to each other and to the business
- Set rules and guidelines for communication with and within the team
8. Help employees develop their group work skills
Although it can be difficult for some employees, it is possible to lead remote teams effectively by helping them develop their group work skills and finding a way to work effectively with each other. Leaders must know their people and help them to improve qualities such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.
9. Make meetings more effective and enjoyable
It is important for the team leader to set up meetings in an effective and efficient way. Tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype enable easy video conferencing and screen sharing and can be used for both audio-only calls and video-only calls. However, while technology enables effective meetings, it is how they are organised and managed that makes them effective and enjoyable. Tips here include to:
- Ensure every meeting has a clear objective
- Make time for sharing of ideas and group discussion in each meeting
- Clarify what makes a meeting effective and how the team can help achieve this
- Include time to ‘socialise’ in team meetings
10. Don’t micromanage
One of the key reasons why micromanagement is such a widespread problem in remote teams is that it’s difficult to keep track of what employees are doing. Leaders might be able to see work in real-time, but they won’t always be able to tell if employees are doing an excellent job or not.
To avoid micromanaging, leaders must set clear expectations with their team, and make sure they are providing the tools needed to succeed ─ like feedback loops, metrics, and visibility into their work.
11. Lead with empathy
Leaders must put themselves in the shoes of their team members and understand what they might be going through. They must also take time to listen and learn from their team members’ perspectives before making decisions. It is crucial to ensure that team members feel fulfilled by their work and that leaders understand how team members feel when they are struggling, what they need, and how they can help their employees succeed in their work.
Are your leaders and managers leading their remote teams effectively? Are your once high-performing teams struggling in the remote work environment?
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