Could the future of work be remote working as the pandemic continues to take twists and turns and more organisations, companies and entrepreneurs struggle to find a system that works suitably for them?
Many systems are currently being tested by organisations, businesses and companies to find out what works best for them. One of the more popular ones shared in a Forbes article discusses how organisations are working a hybrid system – a combination of remote work and onsite work.
The piece highlights how commuting was already tough on many employees, and how more people started skipping it entirely so that they can be more productive and flexible in their work patterns. At the same time, others would have returned to their workplaces, citing better peer interactions and face-to-face solves. As a result, many organisations have adopted a hybrid model.
Many new practices and skills have had to be adopted in this time. As skill gaps widened due to the pandemic, and the increase in job automation catalysed, the demand for retraining and skill-upping equally increased for employees. But how are leaders adjusting to this new working style? Leading teams physically has always posed challenges. However, the amount of work and changes expected to be made by leaders to sustain organisational standards with remote working is massive.
What is the extent of struggle with leaders with regards to remote work?
The Harvard Business Review, (2020) found that many managers were struggling in their roles, and would benefit from more support.
- When interviewed, about 40% of the 215 supervisors and managers expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely.
- 23% of managers disagreed with the statement “I am confident I can manage a team of remote workers”.
- Another 16% were unsure about this ability.
- Similar numbers reported lacking the confidence to influence remote workers to do their job well and coordinate a team of remote workers effectively.
These findings suggest a lack of self-efficacy for managing remote working, with self-efficacy referring to the belief in one’s own ability to master challenging situations. While some jobs have proven adaptable, many sectors are not well-suited for the remote environment and many workers have home lives that present overwhelming challenges. As a result, some managers may be finding their roles more difficult than before – and making their subordinates’ lives more stressful as they struggle to adapt.
Thankfully, there have been several examples of leaders who have performed at high peaks throughout their transition from single company site leadership to managing several branches, networks or subsidiaries across the globe, and therefore requiring them to have exceptional remote management skills.
Leaders with teams across countries, continents and the globe were studied to point out and understand the unique skill sets they possessed that made them successful. From their research on leaders who led remotely, Momentum Results stated that the following skills and qualities differentiated outstanding leaders from the average, and from the poor performers.
The high-performance skills included the leader’s ability to:
- Create a clear direction within which individuals can make their own decisions;
- Engender engagement in individuals and teams from afar;
- Diagnose business performance at a distance without losing sight of local nuances;
- Enable others to take ownership and responsibility.
And with the rise of the pandemic, they identified these new skills as crucial to the success of leaders today and in the future:
- Show increasing levels of concern, support and empathy for individuals working in particularly challenging environments;
- Support individuals to help themselves and so manage their own circumstances, such that they are able to manage their own day, their priorities, conflicting schedules and agendas, as well as sustain their engagement;
- Provide greater clarity of direction, embodied in the priorities, and be ruthless about what can and cannot be achieved, as well as removing unnecessary bureaucracy and hurdles;
- Find more innovative ways of keeping their team engaged in the solitary environments they often find themselves in.
Leaders in this era have a herculean task to be more persistent in pulling their teams along with them. This is as a result of the overwhelming effects of the pandemic that is still prevalent. Fear and uncertainty are two examples of adverse effects the COVID-19 has had on human beings all over the world. Leaders thus need to find new strategies of always engaging their teams to assuage anything negative as that can distract and affect high productivity. So despite the fact that leaders have equally been adversely affected too, they are expected to be resilient enough to overcome theirs and help their teams overcome too as this new normal has come to stay.
The following 4 keys can help leaders to centre their attention on the foundations needed to lead diverse teams remotely while preparing them for the numerous unexpected challenges.
- KEEP IN CONTACT WITH YOUR TEAM
Effective communication can be extremely difficult to manage virtually. Body language and tone of voice account for about 93% of what people communicate and in the absence of physical presence, it can be challenging to understand what your team is communicating. Communications must be clear and concise, even more so than they need to be otherwise. Provide enough detail and direction to avoid being ambiguous and eliminate any confusion. It is helpful to repeat back what you have heard and vice versa to ensure that everyone is on the same page with what is being communicated.
A very important part of communication is listening. This means that you have to be open to the ideas of others, be willing to step outside your comfort zone and have open conversations with others about the challenges that you may be facing. Your team is your most valuable asset so talk to them and be ready to listen. Sometimes, they have the answers to the challenges you may be facing.
- BE ACCESSIBLE
Many leaders are branded with the characteristic of being absent and hard to find. This cannot be the case with remote leadership. Presence and connection are key and this will require you to be available to your teams whenever there is a need. Virtualspeech.com explains accessible leadership as one that makes the leader easily approachable, like having an open-door policy in a physical office. Leading teams that are physically apart require you to close that gap. Let your team know that you are available to talk and support them, whenever they need it.
- SET GOALS, MONITOR AND MEASURE
Recognise the new barriers that arise with remote working and create the space to adjust. However, you must still create a culture to achieve set the goals and expectations. To assess if you are leading effectively, goal setting is of a necessity. Set goals for yourself and together with team members agree on the expectations and criteria for measuring its success. Specifically, measurable goals are crucial; and when you track them frequently it can help to ensure team members stay on course.
It also helps the team leader to be able to identify problems before they become catastrophic. Having realistic expectations about these goals, the time employees should be working and communicating those expectations properly will help everyone stay happier in their roles.
- BUILD NEW HABITS
According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 per cent of our behaviours on any given day. Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general – James Clear. High performance is a lifestyle. You have to be accountable for how you used your time day in and day out. Once you can be cognizant of the fact that things have changed and that you need new structures to operate, you can begin to see the different ways to get things done.
Reflect on your day on a daily basis so that you can build new habits where there are loopholes. This will release the emotional and mental burden on you to turn your whole life around because the option to make gradual changes is available to you! Course correction is at the epicentre of anything that ever worked to solve human problems because humanity is dynamic and so must our solutions. “Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard.
Visionary leaders must learn to breathe life back into their visions and empower their teams with the requisite tools to move along with them in bringing about the needed results. With the appropriate use of human skills some leaders are turning what seemed hopeless into positive outcomes for their organisations, companies and businesses. In this new normal era, you can be an agent of change whether or not you are in a leadership position. Leadership is not a title; it is the power within us to take charge!
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group & Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.