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Workers and companies embrace flexible schedule arrangements. Pew Research suggests that of those eligible to work virtually, about 7 in 10 do so. And McKinsey reports that more than half would like to continue working from home at least three days a week in the future. Instead of waiting for a “back to normal,” business leaders should prioritize leading remote teams to the best of their abilities.
Becoming a better leader in the world of remote work is not as simple as increasing the frequency of video conferencing. Business leaders must understand how to build and maintain relationships, whether with employees or customers, even while working in a digital workforce.
Leading through change (especially while working during a pandemic) is a challenge that deserves to be addressed more effectively and creatively.
How can those managing a remote team ensure their team members benefit from live instructor-led training for upskilling or retraining? What are the ways to keep virtual associates motivated and engaged beyond offering aggressive and progressive benefits? Where can you find diverse remote employees to better serve customers—and how can you keep current employees from leaving amid the Great Resignation?
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Retooling your leadership talents to address remote and hybrid challenges
Resolving these issues is difficult, but not impossible. Anyone can learn how to be a leader at work — even when everyone feels scattered or working on different personal schedules. The key is to understand what your team needs. McKinsey & Co. reported that employers often underestimate the relational aspects of work, such as being valued by their leaders and organizations and a sense of belonging. Employees, on the other hand, said these were some of the most important aspects of finding job satisfaction.
If you’ve been responsible for leading change, read the following remote leadership tips to keep people connected regardless of distance. Work on honing your empathy, staying open to new opportunities, attracting new talent, retaining your top performers, and painting a clear picture for your associates to follow. That way, you can be successful no matter where the future of work lies is in charge.
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1. Look for mentors outside of your business or industry
When you’re at the top of your organizational chart, you won’t always be able to find mentors from within your company—but that’s not always necessary. Mentors can act as anything from a cautionary tale to a sounding board, so be open to reaching out outside your field for potential mentors.
Thinking of joining a board? Do it. Being on a board unrelated to your industry, such as a nonprofit board, will give you greater access to potential mentors. You’ll discover what strategies have worked for them in their businesses—and what tactics have failed. One of the most valuable aspects of my service on the Ohio Council of Career Colleges and Schools is the ability to share the challenges and opportunities associated with serving the adult learner. Like me, you may find that your interaction as a board member can become a launching pad for ingenious solutions to continue to lead with confidence even as the world of work continues to evolve.
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2. Teach others
Knowing your craft is one thing; sharing your knowledge is another. When you teach, you position yourself as an expert. You also force yourself to find ways to transfer your expertise to learners. By mentoring employees or promoting mentoring programs within your company, you create an empathetic connection with your subordinates and create more opportunities for active engagement.
Gallup data shows that employee disengagement hovers around 85%. And with loneliness affecting about two-thirds of young adults, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of connecting your remote employees to you, each other, and your company. The more engaged your workers feel, the less likely they are to leave.
Your teaching doesn’t have to be formal mentoring either. Set up short sessions where you serve as the teacher. Feel free to come up with other ways to share what you know, such as writing how-to articles, creating videos, and creating infographics. Who knows? Ultimately, you can become a thought leader not only for your company, but also for your field, increasing your credibility with workers, colleagues, and clients.
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3. Initiate focus groups
You may think you know how to lead the people you impact on a daily basis, but don’t let arrogance get in the way. Get a gut check by holding regular focus groups. Employee and even customer focus groups can provide one of the best learning experiences you’ll ever have. Although it can be difficult to listen without responding during intense focus group sessions, do your best to use only your ears.
Focus groups with your remote and hybrid workers can allow you to uncover any gaps in your communication or work processes. You’ll have a better idea of everyone’s attitude, not to mention an inside look at the obstacles that keep your team members from reaching their true potential consistently and off the clock. After each focus group, take time to reflect. Then use what you’ve heard as a springboard for future decisions.
There is currently no distinctive workplace norm. Every company faces a unique internal experiment as it leads through change. As a part-time or full-time leader of virtual staff members, you need to focus on improving your core abilities so that you can be a vital asset to yourself, your team, and your organization.