Being a member of a remote team comes with challenges and benefits, but one thing is for sure: leading a remote team requires unique skills. In fact, it takes more effort to maximize your impact as a leader when you're not in the office. So if you're interested in being an effective leader who can positively influence your employees from afar, check out these seven habits of highly effective leaders.
1. They know their employees on a personal level.
When you're not working side-by-side with your team, it becomes more difficult to get to know them on a personal level. So how do some leaders keep the connection going? By leveraging online tools and resources to maintain an open dialog, such as Skype or Google Hangouts for quick video chats and Slack for messaging across teams. In addition, they dedicate time to learn about what's important in each employees' life—whether that's watching a sonogram of their first child or celebrating the completion of a marathon.
2. They provide regular feedback and support...
It can be challenging to give meaningful feedback when you're leading a remote team of individuals who are separated by time zones and often working on separate initiatives. To get the most out of your employees, make one-on-one feedback a priority. When checking in with someone on your team, be sure to ask what they're working on, talk about any roadblocks they might be facing, and set up check-in times to follow up.
3. ...but don't micromanage
The best leaders lead from afar by empowering their employees instead of micromanaging them. As a leader, it's important to create an environment where people feel comfortable taking risks because you're not breathing down their neck—or constantly asking for status updates. Instead of being imperialistic, focus on getting results through others by asking the right questions, giving them opportunities to shine, and offering helpful feedback along the way. Employees will be grateful for their autonomy over time.
4. They emphasize results—not hours
Sure, there's no substitute for hard work—but that doesn't mean you should judge your employees by how many hours they put into their jobs every day. Leaders who succeed in leading a remote team understand that people accomplish more when they're happy and healthy—so it's important to find ways to reward employees outside of recognizing their length of service or tenure on the team. Instead, focus on celebrating milestones achieved by your employees as well as specific contributions made to the company at large.
5. They don't confuse urgency with action
Leaders who are in the office with their teams can sometimes mistake a busy, chaotic environment for productivity. But in reality, when you're working across time zones and chains of command, it's easy to get stuck waiting on approvals from other people before taking action or moving forward with a project. In this case, the best thing you can do is focus on results instead of the speed at which they're produced—and be patient while your employees finish up their work.
6. They make communication a priority
It's no secret that leading a remote team requires effective communication—but what does it take to be an exemplary leader in this area? For starters, provide a virtual water cooler for your employees by hosting forums where they can share updates, ask questions in a public forum, or chat one-on-one with their peers. In addition, keep the lines of communication open by hosting regular conference calls and encouraging everyone to participate when topics are being discussed.
7. They create goals that motivate people…
If your employees know what they need to do to succeed—and they're clear on your expectations for them—they'll be more motivated to exceed these goals. So make sure you create well-defined objectives and measureable outcomes before delegating any work to your team members. In addition, write personal development plans for each member of your team so they have a clear understanding of how you see them growing within the organization over time. Highly effective leaders create goals that motivate their employees to achieve success.