How to Be a Good Team Leader When Working Remotely
With the unprecedented number of layoffs and business closures recently, it has become evident just how important strong leadership skills are. Many businesses have moved to operate remotely, forcing managers to attempt to lead entirely digitally.
Regardless of the present global pandemic, knowing how to be a good team leader will help you run a better business, be a better team member and set you apart in future job searches. Last week, J. Dietenberger joined us on the Business Strategy Open Forum to discuss his personal leadership journey and some of the tools he’s added to his toolkit along the way.
The importance of soft skills
In any role, you need to be good at your job. But in a high-impact leadership role, you especially need to have excellent soft skills in order for your hard skills to mean anything. Honing the following skills will improve your efficacy as a leader:
The modern workplace exists outside of the office. This makes being able to communicate effectively across different mediums — in person, on the phone, via email, etc. — imperative. Working remotely over the past few months has been an excellent opportunity to hone communication skills. Explore additional opportunities to work on soft skills to become a more impactful leader.
Principles in coaching
The main difference between managers and leaders is that managers ensure tasks are moved forward. Leaders look for opportunities to coach their team on all the expertise they gained personally.
As a leader, it’s important to be both available and approachable. While you may think your team will schedule time on your calendar whenever they need it, in reality, they may not realize you’re available nor that you’re willing. Schedule recurring one-on-ones with your team and consistently remind your team of your approachability and availability outside of your regular meetings.
When coaching, it’s also crucial to ensure you meet your team where they’re at in terms of development. Not every employee will be on the same level, nor will they learn at the same pace. Recognize each individual’s needs and do your best to accommodate them. If you don’t feel like you’re being effective, ask how you can be a better leader.
Don’t walk on eggshells when providing feedback. Show empathy, but be direct and clear. Let your employee know when they’re hitting the mark and when they’re falling short of expectations. Be specific and quick; it helps to share any feedback as soon as possible, in a quick face-to-face chat. Emailing coaching feedback should only ever be a last resort.
Feedback as a gift
For me, one of the most important principles in coaching is viewing feedback as a gift. We live in a world where criticism is perceived to be a bad thing. Feedback is a gift, and should be embraced and encouraged.
As a leader, give feedback early and avoid shaming. Focus on behavior over character and be generous. Start by asking, “Help me understand…” and then listen. Use empathy to speak to the person’s interests and state your intent.
In the same way, encourage your team to provide feedback internally. Ask them how they feel about your leadership and how you can better support them. Embrace the feedback that’s given and work to find agreement on a resolution.
At Accelity, we meet as an entire team every week. Anyone can bring a topic for discussion, be it a broken process, recurring issue or overall business idea.
I recently proposed a new idea to the management team: implementing client pod meetings. These quick, 15-minute check-ins would allow each team member on an account to connect and compare notes regularly. Almost immediately, these were implemented on a pilot account and now, not even a month later, this strategy has been rolled out for all of our clients.
The Accelity team agrees these meetings are a game-changer, but they never would have been implemented if the leadership team wasn’t dedicated to encouraging and embracing feedback from the entire team.
Grow as a leader
As a leader, the most important thing you can do is commit to working on being a better leader. No matter how long you’ve been in management positions or how strong your hard skills are, keep your soft skills sharp.
As the marketplace changes, you’ll need to refine your strategies. When working remotely, being hyper communicative can be more helpful, whereas in the office it would be perceived as micro-managing. Most importantly, listen to what your team wants and needs.