It’s as simple as the Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d want to be treated.
Easy, right? It’s probably the most universal ‘rule’ in existence.
While it’s most commonly attributed to the Bible, it can actually be traced back to a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy – ‘Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.’
But it doesn’t end at how you conduct yourself in your interpersonal relationships. Just think about the worst manager you’ve ever had. What words would describe them?
We’ll go first: Micromanaging. Manipulative. Dishonest. Opportunist.
Can you imagine someone – or an entire team – describing you that way? Or anyone describing you that way, for that matter? How you treat others, personally or professionally, is the legacy you create for yourself.
So here, we share five ways you can be the best leader for your remote team by being the kind of leader you’d want to work for – and be remembered for being.
5 Ways To Be The Best Leader For Your Remote Team
1. Lead with Trust
Trust is this thing – this oft-overlooked and neglected little thing – that, if cultivated and nurtured properly, can change the course of your business.
In fact, trust and just about every other mission-critical element of your business’ success are mutually inclusive; they simply cannot exist without trust.
By its very design, remote teams are built squarely on a foundation of trust. And there is a snowball effect when you create an atmosphere of trust. When employees feel trusted, the feeling spills over into their relationships with contractors, vendors and customers. Further, employees begin to assume the best in others, too.
2. Listen & Ask Questions
If you’ve ever picked up your child after school and asked how their day was, you’ve likely been met with a drab reply of ‘good’ – or ten.
However, if you ask more targeted open-ended questions – like ‘What did you play on the playground?’ or ‘Did anything unusual, interesting, scary, funny or silly happen today?’ – you could uncover a wealth of information and enthusiasm
You just have to dig a little deeper. And the same goes for remote teams.
Without in-person contact and its inherent physical cues, you miss important clues. Listening is at the core of emotional intelligence, and great listeners also ask questions. Actively asking questions not only helps you better understand your virtual employees, but makes them feel more valued, too.
In a remote workplace, more time and energy must be dedicated to drawing people’s feelings out of them to prevent detachment, frustration, and resentment.
Schedule welfare calls – preferably face-to-face, even if via FaceTime or similar – to not only show your team that you care about them as individuals, but also as an opportunity to regularly connect and dig deeper. Ask questions about what’s been important to them lately and the challenges they’re facing.
3. Embrace Conflict
Don’t let physical distance encourage you to avoid difficult conversations.
The lack of daily, physical presence can make it easier to sidestep conflict and uncomfortable conversations – but that won’t help anyone. In fact, you risk creating a culture of artificial harmony, which is a slippery, unproductive slope.
Prevent emotional gridlock by taking preventive measures. If there’s a new team or a new initiative, for example, schedule a meeting simply to preemptively focus on the possibility of conflict. Discuss individual conflict styles, and get everything – concerns, fears, hesitations, and pre-existing issues – on the table before you hit the ground running so everyone feels safe discussing potential points of friction – before they encounter it.
4. Celebrate Each Other
Not every accomplishment on this journey will warrant ticker tape and a parade. Some wins will be small – maybe even imperceptible to the untrained eye – but a win is a win and merits recognition. And thankfully, even the smallest gesture – ‘Great job!’ – can go a long way in motivating your team. Similarly, never underestimate the power and impact of manners. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ still go a long, long way.
And listen. We’re not trying to sugar-coat anything, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention those times – may they be few and far between – when things don’t quite go as expected. It happens.
But do you know what mistakes are? Diamond-in-the-rough opportunities to continue building trust through open, honest communication and repeated efforts. There’s no winning-and-losing here; just winning-and-learning.
Calls, texts, and voicemails work fine for casual conversations; however, to emphasize a deadline or celebrate an accomplishment, try to cater communication to the style(s) each employee prefers to help them stay connected in the manner that best suits – and motivates – them.
As we’ve mentioned before, some may prefer more video conferencing while others may prefer written communication – and recognizing those individual preferences will go a long way to let them know you care.
Leading a remote team isn’t rocket science – though it does take some careful leadership adjustments and tweaks to foster the kind of relationships you want and need to be the kind of leader you’d want to have lead you.
And that’s just golden.
Want to know how to lead high-performing remote teams? Check out our on-demand course on managing remote teams, which features video lectures, self-guided reading, and tactical worksheets.