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Remote Leadership - The New Normal?

Digitalisation, globalisation, flexibility, and remote employment – these are just some of the ways the world of work is evolving. You claim to be a leader, but do you have the skills you need to help navigate 'how it will be' with your now agile and remote workforce? One thing is certain - the future of leadership looks very different to how it looked at the start of last year.

You will still need many of the 'legacy' key skills, such as resilience and adaptability, as they are still relevant and needed, others require a rethink or flex to meet a new standard. 77% of adults have claimed that they would be willing to learn new skills now, or completely retrain, if it would improve their future employability, there’s never been a better time to assess your own capabilities and set your development goals.

1. Communication

The way it was: Effective communication skills (verbal and written) have always given leaders the foundations to build good working relationships with everyone from suppliers and potential investors, to customers and (most importantly) employees. Pre-pandemic, good body language and a firm handshake (remember when we could touch each other?!) were also important.

How it will be: In the world of remote work and 'scattered' colleagues, communication is more important than ever before – especially with leaders having to do it from behind a screen and in a completely different location. If the majority of your communication is through email or text-based chat, it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure you’re being as clear as possible – while still staying polite and friendly. Nobody likes a cold message, particularly if the topic is is a little dry to start with.

There may be some benefit to revisiting how much time you’re spending on the keyboard and start making yourself more visible to your colleagues and employees on video calls. “The more uncertain or challenging the circumstances, the more important it is for leaders to be visible,” recommends leadership strategist, Tara J. Rethore. “All leaders can communicate important messages about the team’s work, progress toward shared goals, required changes, etc. visually – via livestream, video-conference platforms or simply a video file embedded in a text or email that can be viewed on mobile devices.” Video calls, whether you love them or hate them, are a vital way to maintain a human connection with your colleagues during times of uncertainty. You might not like them, but you will need to embrace them for your colleagues benefit.

2. Delegation and management

The way it was: Failure to delegate was a trap some business owners fell into, usually because they were reluctant to let go of control. Good leaders found a way to manage their time effectively by delegating responsibility to someone else in the business or outsourcing.

How it will be: It can be helpful to realise that most people want to do a good job at work, whether they are physically present or not. They want their company to be successful and they want to contribute to that success. We all need purpose. We all need to feel trusted too.

Once you know this, it’s easier to see how much of leading remotely is about empowering your staff to do the work you’ve asked them to do – and trusting that it will get done.

“Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President, Gartner.

Swapping out managerial control with trust is fundamental for the success of homeworking, found a study by Acas. Managers felt that difficulties in managing flexible workers could be minimised through effective communications. This was particularly important in terms of ensuring that work could be completed on time, with deadlines and targets being met. If ion doubt - over communicate.

3. Project management and planning

The way it was: Starting and running a business meant managing a range of projects and developing a range of policies and procedures. You also knew how to effectively manage your resources, including time, money and staff.

How it will be: Operating online means you can take advantage of lots of tools to help with all of the same tasks as before. You may find this actually works better for your business, as you’re able to more easily document processes and decisions – and ensure that your employees are all clearly briefed and accountable. Plenty of tools exist to help you plan and project manage across dispersed teams, from work management platforms to time-zone schedulers. Empowering your colleagues to also use these platforms should be a priority for leaders, so invest in training wherever you can. Project planning software can be really useful here - even just using slack to the its optimum can reap rewards.

4. Networking

The way it was: Building good relationships through networking helped grow your business and give you the support you needed.

How it will be: Networking may have moved online for the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. From team meetings and wider networking opportunities, knowing how to get involved and how to make the most of the video medium will contribute to the future success of your business. “Using your spare time while under lockdown is a way of laying the foundation for future growth for when the pandemic comes to an end,” recommends Dr Jo Webber, CEO of social networking app Pod.

From improving your profile on LinkedIn to joining virtual alumni events, it’s important to invest time and energy in building up your contacts and staying in touch with those you already have.

We've been doing a great deal of work with clients in these areas - so we have some great insight some brilliant ways to engage leaders in the how things will be, so that your business can thrive. Wellbeing is key too - and we will be sharing lots more about that in a future blog.


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