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Five Essential Principles of Remote Leadership:
Take Your Company to New Heights
After almost two years of Covid-19, most of us have become accustomed to working remotely—at least some of the time.
To begin with, you may have muddled through with remote working. Perhaps you expected everyone to come back to the office full-time eventually, but it’s now become clear that remote working (or at least hybrid working) is here to stay for your company.
So how can you be an effective leader of your team, or even of your whole company, when you’re not in the same building as your employees? These core principles of remote leadership will help you keep your employees motivated and engaged—and steer your company toward its goals.
Principle 1. Trust Your Employees
Hopefully, after months of remote working, you feel reasonably comfortable that your employees can produce high-quality work without in-person supervision. But if you’ve been monitoring employees using intrusive systems (like webcams that take photos to show whether or not they’re at their desk) or micro-management (like asking them to email you a list of all the tasks they’re working on, several times a day), then it’s time to stop.
As a manager and leader, you need to judge your employees based on their results—not on whether they’re simply at their desk. You should trust that members of staff will work efficiently and diligently from home. That might mean that they’ll take more breaks, to keep their focus levels high when they’re working, or that they’ll work earlier or later in the day than would be the norm in the office.
Unless an employee gives you a reason not to trust them (e.g. they’re constantly missing deadlines or producing sub-par work), then extend as much trust as possible. Obsessively trying to monitor employees isn’t a good use of your time, either.
Principle 2. Don’t Drop the Ball on Important Admin Tasks
If remote working is new for your company, or if you’ve experienced rapid growth and you’re taking on lots of extra remote workers, then it’s critical to ensure you manage important admin tasks in a timely manner.
Things like paying client invoices on time and paying your staff on time are absolutely essential. If you can’t manage to get those done correctly, it causes serious issues. As John Li, Co-Founder & CT of Fig Loans points out, “When your paycheck bounces, it can set off a chain reaction in which you don't have enough cash in your account to cover your other obligations.”
If you’re struggling with admin tasks, look into options like outsourcing HR and payroll or even hiring a virtual assistant. This is particularly important if you’re running a small business and you’re the owner: you might be surprised how many everyday business tasks are ripe for outsourcing.
Principle 3. Meet Regularly with Your Direct Reports
In the office, you might naturally drop by people’s desks and chat with them during the working week, just to check in and see if they need anything. In a virtual environment, you need to deliberately set aside time to talk to your employees. Ideally, you want to do a weekly one-to-one with each of your direct reports, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes.
While you might think that you’re approachable, employees may be reluctant to ask to meet with you about minor things. But this can lead to problems dragging on for weeks when they could have been quickly resolved in a short conversation. By checking in weekly, whether or not you think it’s needed, you give employees a natural chance to raise any issues. You really don’t want to be hearing about problems for the first time when someone hands in their two week notice.
Principle 4. Build Employee Recognition and Appreciation into Each Week
Logan Mallory, VP from Motivosity, explains that, “We all know that it takes a lot more than a steady job and a regular salary to keep employees engaged. Your employees want to feel recognized for their hard work. They want to know their managers and peers value them and their contributions to the organization.”
In the office, you may have already developed good habits of showing employees that you appreciate what they do. A quick “thank you for all your work on the presentation” as you pass someone’s desk probably went a long way toward boosting employee morale. And something as simple as bringing in donuts or taking your team out for lunch after they hit a specific goal also probably meant a lot to your staff.
In the remote environment, you need to set up new ways of recognizing and appreciating employees. That could be as simple as sending a special “shout out” in Slack about something a staff member did—or it might mean starting an “employee of the month” program or similar. You could also encourage peer recognition and a culture of appreciation among employees.
Principle 5. Always Act Ethically and with Integrity
As a remote leader, your employees won’t have much chance to interact with you in person. This means it’s especially important that your actions come across as clear, transparent, and ethical.
That might mean being honest when you’ve made a mistake: owning up to it and explaining what you’re going to do to put it right. By leading in this way, you encourage staff members to also be honest and open if things go wrong. As Akram Assaf, co-founder & CMO of Bayt.com, says, “If ethical leadership is programmed correctly into an organization’s culture, it will have a positive ripple on the business as a whole. Ethical leaders portray a good image of the business, and in turn, attract and retain better talent.”
Acting ethically and with integrity also means that you should avoid situations where it seems like one staff member is being favored over another. Make sure you have clear policies about how remote working operates in your company for different roles and levels of seniority so that employees don’t feel that they’re being treated unfairly if, e.g., they’re required to come into the office one day each week.
Leadership can be difficult (but very rewarding) regardless of the circumstances.
Leading your team or company remotely can bring up extra challenges… but also new opportunities. By following the principles above, you can foster a very positive remote working environment and a culture that attracts top talent.
About the Author
Veronika Biliavska is an independent copywriter and marketing consultant. She is passionate about rocket science and ancient Greek literature.