“All teams and business units need managers — the role has always been to help align projects, decide who should work on what, set priorities, and of course assess people to see who is performing well and who is not working out,” he says.
But Bersin’s assertion does not end there.
“What has changed dramatically is the ‘power’ and ‘authority’ of managers. In the 1950s and 1960s, companies were set up with managers as the kings who decided everything — what people did, who was hired, and frankly, how people were paid.”
But now, Bersin says that leaders must be much more empowering for teams to be high-functioning. “[Leaders] have to put in place teams that can manage themselves, and focus more on development…”
He goes on to say that leaders, now more than ever, need to help those they lead to make good decisions. Leaders are tasked with helping employees to align and connect the team to the company’s bigger initiatives, he says.
Bersin recognizes how remote work is our new reality. It’s not just hierarchy that has changed in companies, it’s also a leader’s job which is to help employees work their best on their remote teams.
While Bersin has his own ideas on what makes for effective remote leadership, here are 4 tips from my experience:
1. Make sure you are listening.
Remote leadership is no different than leading an in-office team: effective leadership involves truly listening to others. Dig deep, be prepared, and make sure you practice effective listening in meetings and in one-on-one meetings, too.
Again, like with any team, that involves being open-minded and suspending judgement. Working to truly listen to the opinion, explanation, wants, and desires of those you are leading also means giving people the benefit of the doubt at times. I’ve learned that calling someone or doing an impromptu video chat to clarify or to ask follow-up questions after a meeting can help make sure I’m clarifying what’s being communicated to me.
2. Ensure the team members are identifying their purpose and goals.
One of the things we do is follow the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). This allows us, as individuals, to select the 3-7 most important things for us to contribute to the company or team for that quarter. Individuals then share that with leader and the team as a whole. In that way, each individual—and then the team together—is able to be energized about the work at hand. Again, allowing people to “own” their own responsibilities and roles isn’t much different than how you would lead a non-remote team.
3. Call on people in meetings.
Knowing the tendencies and personalities of those on your team, sometimes it is most effective and productive for all involved if you call on someone/ask someone specifically what their professional opinion is. I’ve learned this over time after being in quite a few virtual meetings.
As a leader, this can help shape the conversation and help your team challenge the status quo, when appropriate.
This is especially useful if you want to hear feedback from someone who has not yet gotten a chance to talk, and it is also useful for quieter members on your team. In a remote setting, it can be difficult for certain personality types to speak up.
By asking someone what their opinion is during a remote meeting, you often allow someone to share their meaningful input. Over time, this can help people on the team have more confidence and develop as employees.
4. Get together in-person when you can.
Getting together in person on a remote team is valuable time for us! Before leaving for a trip where I would be working from Colorado, for example, a colleague and I had breakfast together to catch up and go over projects.
While some distributed teams only meet once a year—and that might be a more formal setting—every remote team has to find what works best for them. It’s a leader’s job to help support that! If team members live close to one another, they can get together in-person more much frequently.
(Remote) Leadership is About Putting People First
Remote leadership works best when you put people and purpose first. Similar to what Bersin seems to argue in his recent article on the rise of remote work, successful remote work doesn’t rely on the technology: it’s about effective leadership and culture first; technology to support the values and the culture you have in place is secondary to that. As a leader, you have to look for opportunities to help people work their best.
Have other ideas for best practices and tips for being an effective leader of remote teams? Let us know on Twitter @edocservice.com We’d love to hear from you.
Read Josh Bersin’s article on the Rise On The Fall Of Hierarchy And The Rise Of Remote Work here.
READ MORE: “The Virtual Culture Part V”
Kim Sykes is a marketer and content creator at Edoc Service Inc.