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Remote Team Leadership: Leading During Social Distancing

Posted by Michael Haberlein

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Mar 31, 2020 4:36:34 PM

:: 2 minute read ::

leading-remote-teamsCOVID-19 has made the necessity for remote work a very sudden reality for thousands of organizations across the country. These organizations are implementing various levels of remote work and deploying collaborative tools to allow continued productivity during this unprecedented time. This reality has required a massive paradigm shift for nearly everybody in the United States, and some leaders may struggle with how to best lead their team remotely.

As the leader of the Platform Team at Block Imaging, I have quickly needed to make the aforementioned paradigm shift and have embraced three core strategies that I believe have been effective in leading the team during this time.

Three Strategies for Remote Leadership

Expectation Shift

The first thing that must occur is a paradigm shift in the mind of the team leader regarding how work gets done. Many teams that are accustomed to working in socialized, synchronous ways are now adjusting to new methods of work and communication about that work. This adjustment had to happen so quickly that many team members may still be adapting to how expectations can be met in such a different environment.

As a manager, it is important that you reset your expectations of the benchmarks that will be met, communicate any new expectations to your team, and focus on offering more flexibility during this crisis. This does not mean that you throw results-driven metrics out the window, but that you adjust your standards for such metrics accordingly. 

Keep in Touch

Harvard Business Review has published a study that shows shorter communication cycles are often more effective at building rapport and cohesion with one’s team. Using a short email, direct messaging, memetic communications, or an internal message board for quick bursts of relevant communication can work well during this time of remote working. Additionally, holding daily standups with your team is more important now than ever.

It's also imperative that no team member goes for more than a day without checking in. Keeping every team member aware of their importance through a daily one-on-one check in, even if just to say ‘Hi’, will foster increased engagement and fight any tendency toward isolation. Update your team, even if there is no update.

Fight Fear

Fear is truly one of the greatest enemies during this time. Fear destroys initiative, blunts productivity, and causes a general drop in any team’s effectiveness. As such, it is important to demonstrate optimism as much as possible during this time. Leaders who demonstrate optimism and hope in the face of an ongoing emergency are better able to instill a sense of meaning and purpose in their team’s work. While this can be difficult at a time when a general spirit of fear appears to be hanging over the entire planet, there are some simple actions that can be very effective during this time:

  • Use humor and laughter as a stress-reliever if possible
  • Speak words of edification over your team, both in group meetings and in one-on-one communications
  • Maintain processes and road maps as much as possible, to give your team a sense of direction and stability at a time where some may feel like things are out of control
  • Encourage your team members to develop healthy methods of relieving stress- exercise, prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.- now is a great time to accentuate the use of such activities to help alleviate fear

The Takeaway

As we move through this emergency situation together, as organizations and as a nation, remote work is going to be the norm for many into the foreseeable future. By employing the strategies I outlined above, my team has continued to advance our goals effectively. If you're in a leadership position, I believe these tools can help bring your team through this crisis to emerge stronger than ever before on the other side.

Do you have a remote leadership strategy to share? We'd love to see your comment below!

Written by Michael Haberlein

author of blog post

Michael Haberlein is the Senior Platform Developer at Block Imaging. He loves to empower teams to collaborate and serve via integrated platforms. When he's not building tools in Salesforce, Michael loves travelling the shores of Lake Michigan with his family, skiing and golfing , and building Lego masterpieces with his son.

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