Managing employees remotely on a daily basis is more challenging than doing it in an office. Successful remote leaders can build strong connections with employees, embody company culture and ensure work stays on schedule—all without the benefit of in-person interactions. Here are some tips to help you foster effective remote leadership.
- Effective remote leadership shares several key traits, including a high level of self-awareness, empathy and organization.
- Tips for effective virtual leadership include leading by example, mastering your time management, creating SOPs and other self-help resources and getting to know your team personally and professionally.
Key Traits of an Effective Remote Leader
Virtual leadership is partly shaped by a company’s culture. But regardless of cultural differences between organizations, a few key traits stand out among effective remote leadership.
All leaders need a high level of self-awareness, but this trait is especially important in a remote work setting. Leaders don’t have the benefit of in-person communication to see others’ body language or other non-verbal cues. Tone can be easily misconstrued in an email or text message when there’s no emotion to accompany it.
Leaders that are self-aware are more likely to be in touch with how they speak and communicate. They’re more in tune with how their actions may come across to others, such as texting or emailing after working hours. Self-awareness allows leaders to communicate more effectively, engage more meaningfully and set clear expectations of others. If you don’t have a high level of self-awareness, it could be worthwhile to invest in remote leadership training to cultivate this quality.
Remote leaders know that working from home can be challenging. Workers may be caring for children, while others may not be comfortable using digital technologies.
Effective remote leadership means being empathetic to employees and showing grace to those who are struggling. Offering flexibility to employees who need it can give them a more favorable view of their leader and employer, which may turn into a more dedicated workforce.
Attention to Detail
Remote leaders need impeccable attention to detail. It’s easier for details to fall through the cracks, especially since leaders are juggling their own tasks and deadlines along with those of their direct reports.
Because teams and work are distributed, leaders need a clear, predictable way to track progress, deliverables and deadlines. Good organization is key, and great leaders take it upon themselves to create and maintain a system that works.
The Ability to Trust and Be Trusted
Remote leadership requires a great deal of trust. Leaders need to feel like their employees are just as productive and capable of meeting deadlines and objectives as if they were working on-site.
This trust is a two-way street. Employees also need to be able to trust their leaders to be available for questions and concerns. Leaders must follow through on promises made to employees and provide the anchor for remote collaboration to thrive.
Agility and Flexibility
Remote leaders must be able to respond quickly to shifts in work and keep everyone informed when duties, processes or information changes. When deadlines are missed, new needs arise or employees call out sick, remote leaders stand ready with a backup plan or can think on their feet to send the team in a better direction.
Working from home can feel isolating at times, even with regular check-ins from team members. Great remote leaders recognize that these feelings can cause morale (and productivity) to slip. Working solo can also make employees forget why their work matters. Without being in the office all the time, they may lose sight of the bigger picture and how they fit into it.
That’s why effective remote leadership hinges on how you motivate others. Motivation helps employees maintain passion for their job.
Remote leaders need to be in touch with technology, especially the tools their teams use every day. Having a high level of tech savvy not only lets leaders make their teams more effective but can also help them identify new and better tools to move their teams forward.
Bringing in new devices like Neat can be a sign of competency and forward thinking. Neat devices are purpose-made for video conferencing and remove many of the inefficiencies of web-based software, such as poor sound and audio quality and multi-step meeting launches. With Neat, users can start or join meetings with the push of a button. Neat automatically blocks out background noise and visual distractions. The built-in camera also keeps you in frame whether you’re sitting, standing or walking, giving you more flexibility in how and where you take your meetings.
12 Tips for Effective Remote Leadership
With these key traits in mind, let’s look at some tips for effective virtual leadership.
1. Master Your Time Management
Making time management one of your strong suits allows you to be available to your team and set a good example while managing your own workload. It also allows you to smoothly navigate the many demands on your time so you can be a more effective leader.
Neat supports better time management by helping you make the most of every video conference. For example, Neat Boundary eliminates background distractions that pull your conversations off track, ensuring participants can make the best use of their time.
2. Be Understanding
Is an employee working from home and handling homeschooling? Are they feeling under the weather and uncomfortable with an on-camera meeting? These are great times to put your empathy into motion. Remote leaders often allow more concessions compared to in-person scenarios. Demonstrating an understanding of an employee’s needs or situation fosters trust and loyalty, especially if productivity and outcomes don’t suffer in the process.
3. Take Breaks
Working non-stop isn’t a sign of strength or commitment. Studies show that taking breaks can actually make you more productive. Use this time to clear your mind, take a walk, stretch or take care of any little tasks that would otherwise distract you from your focused work.
Then, make sure you encourage your employees to do the same. It shows you care about their physical and mental well-being just as much as outcomes.
4. Communicate Frequently and Clearly
When you’re not in the same room with your team, it can be harder to keep everyone on the same page.
That’s why effective remote leaders communicate often. Checking in regularly will help you stay up-to-date on projects and identify any potential problems early on. And when problems do arise, you can address them quickly and efficiently.
5. Complement Work and Interactions with Technology
Technology enables remote work. That said, it’s important to ensure technology remains a helper in remote work, not a hindrance. Toggling between too many apps, software and systems can make productivity drop and lead to app fatigue.
Be intentional about choosing applications and devices to foster work and communication. For example, Neat devices can streamline and improve video conferencing through one-touch meeting launch. The camera’s crystal-clear visuals ensure nuances like facial expressions come across in conversations. Interactions feel more natural, as each person can be clearly heard, even when two or more people are speaking. Neat’s Audio Processing also suppresses unwanted background noises that might interfere with your conversations, ensuring you can stay on track.
6. Create Standard Operating Procedures and Onboarding Guides
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are written instructions that detail how to perform a specific task. They ensure everyone on your team is on the same page. What’s more, they can help relieve some of the pressure on yourself and your employees, who might otherwise be pulled away from work to problem-solve.
Creating SOPs gives everyone a common anchor to refer to in case of questions. They’re helpful in onboarding and training new employees, as they cut out much of the back-and-forth emailing while the new hire settles into their duties. Once you’ve written your SOPs, make sure everyone on your team has access to them.
SOPs aren’t meant to substitute the human element, as you’ll still need to regularly make direct contact with your team members. Rather, they empower your team to self-manage and take the initiative to carry out tasks independently.
7. Be Visible and Available
Being visible and available shows your team that you care about them and their work. It also sets the tone for open communication, allowing remote team members to feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns.
Leaders who are visible and available are more likely to get buy-in from their team on important projects and initiatives. If your team members don’t feel your presence, they may not be as invested in what you’re doing—or in what they’re doing.
8. Curate a Remote Culture and Lead By Example
Just like in the office, your remote workplace needs culture. Virtual culture reflects your employees’ work ethics, how they feel about the company’s mission and values, how they treat clients and how they view the company at large.
Effective virtual leadership plays a role in shaping remote culture. Even though employees are limited on visuals, how you bring the team together can help them feel connected to the company and their team. Embody the culture you want to create in your communications, ideas, technology choices and even disciplinary actions. Through you, employees can see and understand more about the company they work for and set the right expectations.
9. Know Your Team—Personally and Professionally
Effective leaders develop others. They help their team set and reach goals, learn new skills and advance in their careers. Getting to know your team’s professional goals can help you build strong relationships and use their greatest strengths. When they succeed, it reflects positively on you!
Likewise, getting to know your team on a personal level fosters trust. Good rapport will make them more likely to approach you with questions, requests or concerns. Gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses and how they might respond in a situation. Knowing these things can be helpful when assigning tasks and setting up new projects for success.
The best leaders aren’t the ones who can do it all; they are the ones who know how to delegate effectively. Delegating can free up some of your time that you could better spend on other tasks. It also gives others a chance to grow and acquire new skills and experiences.
11. Look at Outputs, Not Just Time Spent at Work
Productivity only tells part of the story. Effective remote leaders are more concerned with objectives and outcomes, not just time spent at work. That’s because time and tasks don’t always correlate with results.
Embracing an output-first mindset encourages workers to do their best work vs. the most work. And when employees can find ways to do their work more efficiently, they can use their “free” time to learn new skills and invest in themselves professionally.
12. Check in and Ask for Feedback
As a remote leader, it can be difficult to get feedback from your team. You may not be able to have regular one-on-one conversations with your team members, so it’s important to find other ways to get feedback.
One way to get feedback is to ask for it directly. You can send out a survey or ask for specific feedback during team meetings. It’s also important to create an environment where team members feel comfortable giving feedback, whether it’s positive or negative.
Another way to get feedback is to observe your team members and their interactions. This can give you insight into how they feel about your leadership and whether they are motivated and engaged in their work.
Neat devices help foster great feedback by capturing facial expressions and body language—elements that are often lost with other video conferencing tools. Through more natural, free-flowing conversation, remote leaders can better understand how their employees think and feel.
Leveraging Technology for Effective Remote Leadership
These principles of effective leadership in virtual teams can help you create a stronger organization and culture from the inside out. Neat technology can help you practice these principles and develop more impactful teams. Explore Neat today and take remote leadership to new heights.
The traits of good remote leaders. Intense Minimalism.
Seven Tips For Successful Remote Leadership. Baylor University.