This year has shifted the work environment dramatically, and the focus has been put on how employees adapt to this “new normal”. But, what about team leadership? Are there tools that can help leaders become successful in managing their teams remotely?
These are the types of questions we have asked ourselves here at Atomic 47, so we spoke with our very own CEO and founder Karen Olsson to get some insights on how leaders can navigate the long-distance work environment.
Olsson’s three-pronged approach to long-distance leadership is simple.
Have an Open Dialogue
The responsibility falls on leaders to ensure that healthy communication persists in the online environment, by virtually moving the water cooler conversation online.
“Over-communication is your best tool,” she said. “We’re losing out on the face-to-face conversations that happen in the office, so it’s important to overcompensate in that area.”
Moreover, leaders need to keep an eye out for non-verbal communication cues from their staff. In other words, they need to make an effort to be more mindful and intuitive of the demeanor of their employees and how that materializes in their work.
“Have a conversation and ask the right questions,” she said. “Look for patterns of change in communication and/or behaviour, then tackle them when they surface, otherwise you run the risk of things going sideways quickly.”
Value your Community
Olsson outlined that leaders should be mindful of fostering a community of comradery and trust, and embracing the human side of management that is often forgotten, especially in uncertain times like the one we are all experiencing today.
And, this approach applies to both your employees as well as your leadership teams.
“Make sure that you’re working with your whole team and other leaders to make sure you’re being cognizant,” she said. “Cohesion and synchronous communication within the management team is crucial.”
Leaders should aim to set up a remote work environment that mediates community practices online just as they would be in co-located workspaces. It is especially important that all members of your leadership team are on board as well. Online events like “Formal Tuesdays” can enrich company culture by cultivating a deeper level of personal connection between team members.
Similarly, it is crucial for leaders to adjust expectations for their staff and become more flexible regarding workflow management by making changes to how they track output.
According to Olsson, it is not so much about the hours employees put in, instead the focus should be on the actual work they produce. Once that management mindset shift occurs, the team dynamic can adapt effectively to the online realm.
Tap into your Network
Because CEOs typically feel isolated, Olsson also suggests that leaders turn to trusted contacts in their network to exchange management experiences in the new remote environment and learn from each other.
“In mid-March, I reached out to my peer network – a group of CEOs that I trust – and I found that incredibly useful,” she said. “Collectively, we came up with a body of knowledge to help us create effective policies for remote work.”
Olsson highlighted that seeking insights from professionals in different fields of expertise can provide leaders with solutions to problems they hadn’t even considered.
By acknowledging potential issues before they surface and relaying this information to management teams, information dissemination can be quick and concise, and teams can readjust more seamlessly.
As a final note, Olsson said that although it is crucial for leaders to focus on their employees’ well being, it is equally important not to lose sight of your customers’ needs during this transitory period.
Olsson suggests treating every project as your own, devoting you and your team’s efforts to the success of every project you work on.
“At Atomic 47, we have a client-centric approach based on addressing the business needs of each individual client, and we truly eat and breathe that kind of methodology,” she said.
“And, that approach hasn’t changed for us despite all the adjustments that needed to be done internally as a company.”
If you like the insights shared today by our Atomic team and would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to us. We would love to hear about your experience as a long-distance leader.
Looking to grow your business in these uncertain times? Book a free consultation with Atomic 47 today to get the solutions you need to scale your business.