Remote leadership
Training & Learning

How to Support Leaders in Managing High-Performing Remote Teams

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has become part of the working culture for companies across the globe. Statistics show that it may not be going away anytime soon.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 72% of employers said that remote work has helped with employee retention. Also, 99% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely. 

Given that the trend is likely to stay, L&D leaders need to adapt their leadership training programmes accordingly. This is a challenging topic, and there isn’t a single guide or handbook that can help remote teams or virtual leaders to be 100% ready. While there is still much to discover and learn, we’ve put together seven best practices L&D leaders can follow.

1. Emphasise clear and comprehensive communication

As an L&D leader, you need to emphasise the need for effective communication in your leadership training. If remote team leaders are aware of the importance of this concept, they can provide the support they need to their team even if they don’t physically see them.

What exactly about effective communication should you as an L&D leader emphasise in delivering your leadership training modules?

Here’s one. When leading a remote team, clear and proactive communication is something that cannot be overemphasised. Remote team leaders may experience asynchronous communication with every member of their team working from different parts of the world. It may sometimes feel like everyone is out of touch. In fact, a study found that communication is one of the biggest struggles of employees working remotely.

What's your biggest trouble with working remotely?

Instant messaging and emails may not be enough because the tone of voice can sometimes be misunderstood. In situations like this, communicating with the team over video calls (with everyone’s camera turned on) can help. Remote team leaders may wish to consider a UCaaS package. UCaaS or Unified Communication as a Service, allows them to integrate all communications in one platform.

Virtual leaders should also ensure that communication with and among members of the team is frequent, so everyone is kept in the loop when there are updates.

To deliver good remote leadership, remote team leaders must consider and respect the time of employees that are in different time zones. For example, they do not want to schedule a Zoom call at a time that clashes with the bedtime of one of their staff. If they need to have an urgent or regular team meeting, they should choose a time everyone is comfortable with and work their schedule around that.

Lastly, scheduling one-on-one calls to check in with employees shows good remote leadership. Their virtual team will not only have a sense of belonging this way, but they’ll also feel respected and valued.

Related: Now Is Our Only Chance to Fix Remote Work— Here's How We're Doing It

2. Explain the importance of setting goals and priorities

As team members cannot interact with remote team leaders physically or observe their body language in a remote environment, staff can easily misinterpret the urgency and priority of certain tasks. Therefore, it is crucial for these remote team leaders to set very clear goals and priorities for the virtual team.

L&D leaders like you should incorporate this emphasis on setting goals and priorities into leadership training modules. Remote team leaders should know they should ensure their work goals and priorities are effectively communicated. They can do this by labelling tasks with different priority levels.

For instance, they can group tasks they assign into these four categories:

  • Important and urgent: Tasks that fall under this category must be immediately attended to by team members, even if they have to put current tasks on hold.
  • Not urgent but important: The team does not immediately have to attend to these kinds of tasks but must set a deadline to complete them.
  • Not important but urgent: Tasks with this priority level can be delegated, if possible, while priority is given to other urgent and important tasks. Examples of these kinds of tasks may include answering unexpected phone calls or texts.
  • Not urgent and not important: These tasks can be set aside to be completed later.

In addition, effective remote team leaders must set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals. This will ensure the team easily identifies the tasks ahead and all processes are more integrated.

If, for instance, remote team leaders set a SMART goal to increase local customers by X percent, the team will know to work on building local citations every month without leaders having to dictate it to them. If virtual leaders set a SMART goal of growing their email list by Y percent, the team will know how many email subscribers they need in a month to achieve that goal.

3. Show people how to provide employees with relevant tools

As an L&D leader, you need to emphasise that remote team leaders need to provide their team with everything they need. The remote team leader’s goal should be to maximise the team’s effectiveness, prevent burnout, and manage their workload.

They should provide resources, which could include anything from equipment and workspace to people and capital. They’re everything the team needs to accomplish its goals quickly and successfully.

For instance, employees may need extra hands on deck to keep up with the workload and achieve their goals faster. Virtual leaders can therefore hire temps, part-timers, or contract workers who understand the team’s goals. The new hires should also be skilled so they can relieve employees of the excess workload with the value that they provide.

Providing resources can also mean these leaders should assign a mentor to a new hire or allow for training and development plans to improve employees’ skill level. We’ll talk more about this later.

Giving employees access to tools that can help them work together efficiently and effectively even when they’re in different places is also important. A project management software solution like Asana or Trello, for instance, can help a remote team work on projects together:

Trello

Through these solutions, remote team leaders can also monitor whether team goals are being achieved. If they give their team the resources they need, they can empower staff so that everyone can meet the organisation’s goals as a whole.

Looking for more tips on how to support your teams and prevent burnout? Download our cheat sheet: How to Talk to Your Team About Burnout

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4. Deliver remote training to managers

It’s crucial for managers to continue to upskill. This is so they can deliver effectively on their remote leadership roles. Ultimately, this can help accelerate results in the organisation.

L&D leaders need to create an impactful leadership development programme – designed for a remote setting – that will equip your virtual leaders with the necessary skills. While some companies use external companies for training, utilising your in-house experts will allow you to upskill from within, taking into account context and cultural factors of the organisation. 

Industry trends are constantly changing, and the remote culture is here to stay. So, managers must keep pace with the development and processes that come with remote working. 

In a remote leadership training, the following topics should therefore also be covered:

  • Definition of success in a remote environment
  • Ways to build trust with remote employees
  • Giving critical feedback to remote employees
  • Setting remote team’s direction and ensuring progress

Facilitation skills, communication skills, and analytical skills, among many others, are some of the skills that remote managers need to have or improve on.

5. Encourage virtual team-building programmes

With everyone working remotely, it may be hard to feel the team spirit and bond among team members. So, remote team leaders need to conduct virtual team-building programmes. L&D leaders need to specify the importance of these programmes in leadership training modules.

Virtual team-building programmes not only strengthen remote leadership abilities but also help remote team leaders improve communication within their team. They also help team members work together more effectively, build trust, and help improve the company’s corporate culture.

Below are some team-building activities remote team leaders could organise for their team:

  • Trivia: Trivia games or quizzes allow employees to ask questions about each other to know one another better
  •  Virtual escape rooms
  • Celebrating birthdays/anniversaries and team achievements
  •  Virtual scavenger hunt: During a virtual scavenger hunt, the team rushes to “dig up” items around their homes or solve riddles within a limited time.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to virtual team-building activities. Remote team leaders can be as creative as possible. Formstack, for instance, held a short film festival for its team. It’s a great way to enhance employee bonding and stimulate employees’ creativity:

Formstack

One of the downsides to remote working is that the team may feel disconnected from each other even during work hours. Hosting fun team-building online activities in real time can help people bond and connect.

6. Show leaders how to set employee development paths

Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. The more remote team leaders invest in their development, the more productive and successful the company will be.

As an L&D leader, you should emphasise the relevance of setting career development paths for all employees. Remote team leaders must be careful not to pass up remote employees for development opportunities.

All employees should be made aware of the opportunities for growth open to them. This way, they can work more efficiently and stay motivated, which will help retain employees. Here’s how virtual leaders should set employee development paths:

  • Once employees’ career goals are understood, they should fill the knowledge gaps that need to be bridged for them to level up
  • By developing clear selection requirements for managers, internal promotions can be run smoothly and easily
  • For employees not selected for promotion, support should be given to help them sharpen their skills in preparation for future promotion opportunities in the organisation.

Employees should be encouraged as they work toward reaching their goals. This will boost their confidence and impact your company’s growth positively.

7. Create a culture of upskilling from within 

Organisations need to focus on improving their employee's skills and working abilities through upskilling. At a time when the global economy is on a downtrend and businesses cannot afford the limited workforce they have, upskilling is the way to build high-performing teams, whether they’re remote or office teams.

To effectively plug the skill gaps for the jobs of today and tomorrow, as an L&D leader, you must emphasise this need to continuously upskill faster than ever before. You can do this by inculcating this culture in remote team leaders through your leadership modules. 

In this article, we broke down ways you can help support remote team leaders and improve their team performance. By ensuring company leaders and their team are equipped with the skills and resources they need, leaders can meet company goals and support employees in a remote setting. 

Looking for more insights on how to create a culture of upskilling from within? Get in touch with an expert today.

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