Many organizations aren’t quite sure where to start when it comes to helping their leaders adapt to a world where half their people are in the office, and others are scattered to the four corners of the world (or the nearest Starbucks.) In our book, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, we include some guidance for those putting together a development plan for organizations.
Really, there are three questions you want to ask:
What kind of organization do you want to be, and how do you want your leaders to behave in it?
The first question is important because it forces you to ask some hard questions about how you expect people to work. For example, if you say it’s all about collaboration and teamwork, but people are rewarded mostly for their work as individuals, that’s where they’ll focus. When people aren’t in the office, and can’t be (we hope figuratively) grabbed by the collar by their co-workers, there’s a tendency towards focusing on personal tasks at the expense of the team.
If you want your folks to work together, it’s part of the leader’s job to help create opportunities for people to work together by helping prioritize tasks, delegating effectively and encouraging peer-to-peer interaction. You also need to make sure the tools people have allow them to work in the way you want them to.
Leadership development today means not only understanding the traditional leadership skills, but recognizing the dynamics at work when people are apart from their teammates and meeting them head on.
What are the skills and gaps needed to achieve those goals?
These gaps will fall into two categories: Leadership behaviors and Technology.
Take a good look at your existing leadership and management curriculum. The traditional behaviors of good leaders need to be accounted for: coaching, delegation, performance management, and communication. If those aren’t already available to your employees, they should be, and in a variety of methodologies.
Working virtually means there are certain skills and knowledge that needs to be added to the standard curriculum, but they are questions of degree. Yes, coaching is important. But how is it impacted when you can’t sit across from the person and look them in the eye. Are they building in frequent opportunities to check in electronically since they won’t have those spontaneous hallway conversations? Do they know how to interact with teleworkers as effectively as they do with the people they see across from them every day? Leaders need to be aware of both the dynamics of working remotely and the specific techniques to help address and mitigate those differences.
Technology gaps can be addressed, but most training addresses only the technical aspects of using a given tool. “They use Skype for Business? Great we’ll get IT to train them on the tool.” While it’s important to use a tool well (otherwise it’s a waste of money and productivity), using a tool in the context of how people really work is critical. Teaching people to use Skype without also teaching them how to run an effective team meeting using it is only half the job.
How can we prepare both the learners AND the organization as a whole?
As Peter Drucker so famously put it, “put good people in a bad system, and the system wins every time.” Developing a culture means not only educating and empowering leaders, but having the whole organization working in concert to achieve those goals. Make sure that you look at the entire organization when planning your development tracks. IT and Human Resources are two obvious stakeholders.
Helping turn great leaders into great remote leaders is not as hard as it may seem, but without careful assessment and planning, it can become a frustrating, piecemeal, process. The good news is, with a little thought and a few deep breaths, you can do it.
If you are a leader with people spread across geography and time zones, the skills you will learn in our Remote Leadership Certificate Series will change your leadership life. This powerful learning opportunity will help you to have less stress and frustration, and greater confidence and success in your leadership role. Learn more here.
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.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.