Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Chances are you are one of the many people around the world working from home right now. The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered office doors overnight and sent millions of people around the world to work remotely.

Even as states and countries start to re-open and some people head back to the office, more companies will stick with their remote working capabilities. In most cases, working from home is safer for employees and helps organizations better allocate resources.

But working from home is one thing—leading from home is another. You may have gone from overseeing your team directly in person one day to checking in with them remotely via email the next day. Leading a remote team takes a different type of leadership, and it can be a difficult transition for people. But as more companies shift to remote work, knowing how to lead people who aren’t in the same physical space as you is a crucial skill. In fact all leaders need to embrace a set of new skills and mindsets in order to lead effectively in the new world of work.

I’ve been running a remote team for the past 12 years. My team of 10 people is distributed around the world and I’ve only ever even met one or two of them in person. Through some trial and error, I’ve learned how to lead a remote team to successfully where things get done and everyone is happy.

Here are three of my top 3 tips:

1. Set clear expectations. For people thrown into working from home, the entire situation can be new and unknown. Working from home doesn’t mean employees get to lounge around and do nothing all day. Set clear guidelines and expectations from the beginning, including how you want them to work, the quality of the work, and when they need to be online and available. I’ve found this works for full-time and part-time employees. Even with the flexibility of remote working, being clear about needing someone online for certain hours can make a huge difference. Do it from the start to avoid awkwardly having to backpedal and set expectations down the road.

2. Get the right technology. One of the biggest challenges for companies thrown into remote working during the pandemic was having the right technology in place. But now that the systems are working and have been tested, they’re more likely to stick around. Carefully think about what your team needs to succeed—is it communication tools? Task management software? Videoconferencing capabilities? Security measures? Make sure everyone on your team has the tools they need to do their job well from home. The good news is that many products are available for free, at least on a trial basis, so you can test the waters before deciding which systems to use and don’t forget to collect employee feedback.

3. Trust your people. You’ve set expectations and given them the tools to succeed. Now let them do it! One of the biggest challenges for leaders who are used to having their teams within arm’s reach at all times is to trust them to get the job done when they can’t check in every few minutes. Resist the urge to micromanage. Trust your employees to be adults, and trust yourself that you picked a good team that will continue to work at a high level. When employees feel you don’t trust them or don’t think they are being productive, it shows in their work. Check in with your employees enough to collaborate and stay on the same page, but don’t babysit them.

4. Be human. You must remember that with the current crisis we are in, you are a people leader first and a business leader second. This means you focus on the well-being of your people before you focus on the sales that were closed. It’s ok to be vulnerable and open with your people, especially now…they will appreciate it far more. It’s during these times of crisis and stress that we need leaders to demonstrate their humanity. Trust is crucial, and there’ no better way to earn and create that trust than by being a human being. As a leader you are going to have to work harder than ever before to guide your people, motivate them, inspire them, and look out for them.

Leading a remote team is a challenge, but it can also bring great opportunities to work with the best talent around the world. Take time to stay connected with your employees. Check in with them about work and about life. Millions of us may be working remotely unexpectedly, but this will definitely become part of our new normal. If you want to be a leader in the future, you’ve got to know how to lead remote teams.

If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

  1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
  2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.
  3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here.