The global pandemic has forced many people to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
This change in the way we work requires a different set of leadership skills.
The skills that made leaders successful in our pre-pandemic past are not necessarily the skills needed to facilitate effective leadership for the years and decades to come.
In my book, Effective Remote Teams: How To Lead Yourself And Your Team To Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes Without Burnout, I interviewed several CEOs and executives about the future of work.
I asked all of them, "What do you believe are the 2-3 skills that leaders will need to lead their teams effectively when we are no longer all in the office together five days a week?"
Their answers were enlightening, I’ve split them into 4 key themes.
One theme that every executive mentioned was the importance of trust. It can be harder to build trust with your team in a remote work environment because you cannot have face-to-face interactions daily.
One CEO said that she’s been especially focused on creating an environment where her team feels like they could trust each other, and they can trust her.
Some practical things you can do as a leader to build this trust:
- Give your team issues to solve (and it’s up to them how they do this) instead of micro-tasks
- Adopt a mindset where you focus on “outcomes over hours in the office”
- Develop a trust agreement as a team.
This will help them to feel trusted and empowered to work in the most effective and efficient way for them, without feeling like they need to report back to you at every step.
Set A Clear Vision And Priorities
Another theme that emerged from the interviews was the importance of having a clear vision and priorities.
When you're not all able to gather around a whiteboard or visual management board in the office each day, you need to be even more explicit about your vision, priorities, and expectations.
One executive said that he has been focused on over-indexing communicating his vision for the company and where he sees it going in the future.
For him, this means communicating it (again) at the start of his monthly Town Hall meetings with his entire team, as well as at his quarterly Leadership Team Planning Days, and ensuring alignment of the team’s strategic priorities and initiatives back to this vision.
He explained that it's essential to be clear about your goals so that everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to do to help the company achieve its objectives.
Another theme that came up is the importance of ensuring the continued career development of remote workers.
In the remote work environment, it's even more important to be deliberate about creating future development opportunities.
The exposure opportunities are simply not there in the same form as they were pre-pandemic when we were all in the office full-time.
It’s no longer as easy for emerging talent to bump into C-Suite and other Senior Leaders in the office and learn from osmosis of watching them in action.
With so much ambiguity in the new world of work, it's more important than ever to give your team members regular feedback so they know what they should continue doing, stop doing and start doing.
With people working from home and many also managing family obligations, there is no such thing as a "normal" workday anymore.
In fact, some studies have found that people care more about flexible hours than remote working.
Leaders need to be flexible in managing their team's time and workload and how they expect people to communicate and collaborate.
This ties in closely with the earlier theme of trust.
Find New Ways To Connect
Building solid relationships with team members can be challenging with so many people working remotely.
Leaders need to find ways to connect with their team personally, whether through regular video chats or by being deliberate about connecting face-to-face when in the office together.
They need to learn how to use technology to their advantage and ensure their team members are always kept in the loop.
Some additional skills that executives mentioned were empathy, innovation, active listening, and having difficult conversations.
More resources to help leaders in this new world of work: