Working and leading remotely can feel radically different from the way work’s always been done. It’s not, of course, but it sure feels like it. To be fair, there are some key skills that need to be developed if we’re going to make a smooth transition to leading from a distance. But what are those skills and how do we develop them?
In Kevin’s and my new book, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, we dedicate a chapter to developing leaders, particularly aimed at Learning and Development folks who are charged with helping grow people’s skill sets.
Basically, there are three pairs of questions that need to be asked if you’re going to create a coherent, focused, and effective training plan.
- What kind of organization do you want to be/ Does your current culture match this vision? Is your company made up of individual contributors, each person responsible for their work and not much else? Or do you have a vision of highly collaborative “brainstorming” culture where people share ideas and support each other in a matrixed environment? This matters, because they require very different skill sets from the leaders. Of course, if your current training is meeting these needs, you probably have to simply tweak what you’re doing and incorporate the realities of the technology you use and you’ll be fine. But if you envision a collaborative environment, and don’t build that into the courses you offer, the technology you give your remote workers and build those skills into your leadership curricula, odds are you’ll get individuals acting like individuals.
- What behaviors do you expect from your Long-Distance Leaders? What skill gaps must you address? Most companies have a list of “competencies” their leaders should have. But what do those leaders actually do to demonstrate them. How we behave is always more important than what we know. Leaders often lag the people on their team when using technology, for example. Is the way they use technology part of their development plan? Are you helping them write better emails and coach their people? Have you got resources in place to help run more productive and effective virtual meetings and conference calls?
- What is your plan for developing and supporting your Long-Distance Leaders? How will the organization support the remote team members? As people create their performance plans for the year, are learning opportunities included? Have you saved time and budget for the improvement you expect people to demonstrate or are you just hoping they somehow get better at their jobs? One sure way to make sure your leaders struggle less is to make sure that the individual contributors are aware of the skills their managers are working on, and are part of creating the new processes that will improve everyone’s work.
If you’re a Learning and Development professional, here’s one final question that inevitably arises from the others: is working remotely impacting your team in unexpected ways, and does your current development efforts address those needs? Because people are working remotely, you probably need to look at a mix of classroom, online, live-online and self=directed learning. The bad news is it can be confusing, the good news is there are a lot of solutions out there, ranging from free to complex.
We can help. Please explore all of the resources here on this site – from free reports to videos to webinars and complete series, there are resources and tools to help all leaders and employees succeed in the virtual environment. And of course, there’s our book, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. If we can help with anything, please reach out and let us know.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.