Leadership Development, Remote Working, Team Management

5 considerations for leaders who are new to remote working

Starting in any new career can be at it's best, daunting and overwhelming. Trying to get up to speed with internal processes and tools while also trying to build relationships and trust with your new direct reports, takes time and effort.

 If you're taking on these new responsibilities and are also working remotely for the very first time, I've included some considerations for you below that will help you navigate the learning curve and set you up for ultimate success. 

Understand your strengths as a leader and how they can translate into remote team environments

Understanding your strengths as a leader is important. How can your leadership style translate into remote environments? For example, if you’re a visionary leader that can easily motivate and engage your team in team discussions, how can you get that across in an authentic way online? Understanding and doubling down on your strengths as opposed to trying to improve on other areas will help you sustain your efforts over time with not only managing a remote team for the first time but also starting a new job. 

Keep communication lines open 

Communication is at the heart of every successful remote team and is one of the key challenges for effective facilitation of remote teams is ensuring clear communication amongst team members. Without clear communication and understanding teams fall into the trap of duplication of efforts and performance issues. Many performance issues and errors in teams come down to poor communication. 

Alongside understanding the companies communication best practices, you may also need to understand how you can leverage technology to ensure more effective communication on remote teams. For example, research shows that remote teams lack the opportunity to read each others’ body language, a large part of effective communication, and rely on video conferencing to read this. Relying on reading or interpreting a written text, can lead to many challenges amongst individuals and teams and has a possibility to create and heighten conflict issues amongst team members or individuals. For example, by planning frequent interactions, asking more questions it will help individuals understand each other fully and compensate for a lack of other communication methods such as body language.

Focus on building relationships and fostering trust 

When working remotely, you don’t have the opportunity for ‘water-cooler’ moments or natural conversations that can happen while making a coffee. It’s important that you are deliberate about setting time aside for these conversations when you start working remotely. In some cases, you’ll have to be deliberate and proactive by reaching out to not only your team but other teams. 

Regularly setting time up for a coffee and chat on a video call is a great way to create interpersonal relationships and foster trust. Similarly, when you interact with your remote team, it’s shouldn’t always be about projects or work. Try to incorporate some social chat at the start or end of every 1-1/team meeting and don’t underestimate the power of the little efforts. For example, a ‘Good Morning’ message to your team in Slack takes less than a minute but over the long-term, it creates an environment of acknowledgement and respect.

Get familiar with the company’s technology stack

Most companies will have a set of standard tools that they use for their remote teams such as Slack or Zoom for example. Take some time to understand the functionalities of these tools and how you can leverage them in managing remote teams. Spending some time doing so will ensure you hit the ground running and are able to execute your ideas without worrying about facilitation and connectivity. 

Find a tenured remote team manager who can show you the ropes

If you’re working for a remote-first company, you’re onboarding and training will include information on remote working best practises. Possibly your company will set you up with an ‘onboarding buddy or point of contact’ but if not, you can make relevant connections yourself. It’s always a good idea to have a conversation with another leader or leaders who have managed remote teams within the company. They should be happy to share their experiences on what’s worked and what hasn’t and answer any questions you have as a remote leader in a similar position.

Prioritise self-care and work/life balance

If you’re working remotely for the first time chances are you’re probably very excited about saying goodbye to a long commute to an office and eager to make waves in your new position. It’s important though that as a leader you are living by example by setting healthy boundaries for yourself and your team in your working day. 

Although it can be tempting to work that extra hour or answer that email at 9 pm, especially if you work across different timezones, it won’t pay off in the long-term. Start off on the right foot with a routine and structure that enables you to have a work-life balance. Whether that’s a walk at lunchtime or working from a co-working space once a week, experiment with what works best for you and encourage the same on your team. 

About Shauna

Shauna Moran, the founder of Operate Remote helps remote and multi-location companies improve employee performance and engagement. Shauna is an accredited coach & consultant and emotional intelligence practitioner. Shauna has unique experience in building and managing remote teams on an international level, coupled with her academic background in Psychology, Innovation Management and extensive research in remote working strategies. Shauna's mission is to empower companies and leaders to create a productive, highly-functional, effective and engaged workforce, regardless of the locations that they can scale well into the future, with confidence. Book some time to speak with Shauna or contact her on [email protected]