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The 7 essential skills managers need to successfully lead their teams remotely

While remote working has been forced upon businesses as a consequence of the COVID-19 lockdown, it is set to become even more common as our business landscape evolves. The ability to effectively manage teams remotely will therefore become a vital skill for managers going forward.

Leading a team from a distance raises both unique opportunities and challenges, requiring a leader to have all the skills of face to face management but also those competencies specific to managing on a remote basis.  So here are our seven key skills to recognise and develop in your managers.

1. Flexibility

There are still projects to complete and KPIs to hit, but our current circumstances may require greater levels of flexibility and creativity from managers and teams.

It’s vital to set out clear expectations with your team members and to understand that each person’s working pattern may be quite different. 

2. Two-way communication

As a manager, you already know that clear communication is key. When managing a remote team, it’s vital to maintain channels for open, two-way communication. Not only will this ensure tasks are properly executed, it will also give your team the chance to feel heard and understood which will boost morale and confidence.

Set clear expectations of how and when you’ll communicate with one another, including which channels are best to use.  Aim to understand your team’s needs as individuals as well as the collective, the support you then provide will be relevant and appropriate.

3. Tech confidence

You don’t need to be a Silicon Valley tech whizz to lead remotely, but confidence with the specific technologies you’re using will reap huge dividends in terms of productivity and time saved.

Familiarise yourself ahead of time with your video conferencing software. Make sure you’re confident enough to direct and manage the technical elements of a meeting, like muting participants, sharing documents or creating sub-groups and break-out rooms. Gain essential knowledge in shared hubs like Microsoft Teams or Google Drive. If necessary, take on some online training.

4. Resilience

Especially if remote working isn’t the norm for your organisation, your people will be looking to you for cues on coping and adapting to this new pattern. Your ability (or inability) to display emotional resilience will directly impact their confidence and peace of mind.

Fortunately, resilience is a skill that can be developed like any other. While remote working and video calling may blur some boundaries, stay aware of your professional responsibility as a leader, and aim to lead from a position of resilience.

5. Trust

Remote working and micro-management are not easy pairs. Managers, therefore, need to trust that they’ve hired the right people for the work. And results and output will prove whether they’re truly performing. 

Trust is therefore an essential component of leading remotely. If your team have clear guidance, understand what their goals are, and are equipped and motivated to perform their roles well, then they should flourish with the freedom to work fairly independently.

Note…it’s important to recognise the level of instruction that different team members will need.

6. Efficient monitoring of work

That being said, implementing systems to regularly and efficiently monitor your team’s work is vital. Project management and time-tracking apps and tools can be a huge help.

Consider setting tasks with clear deadlines, viewing team activity regularly, and setting frequent catch-ups.

7. Encouragement

In the absence of in-person feedback and affirmation, don’t forget to be proactive about appreciating and encouraging your team. A simple encouragement can go a long way to boosting morale (and therefore productivity). Leading remotely offers a chance to think creatively about ways to acknowledge and reward good work.

We are holding a FREE online masterclass on Wednesday at 3:30 pm ‘Managing different approaches to Working From Home’. It gives invaluable insight into managing a remote workforce effectively. Register here>>

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