Leading from a distance - leadership with "extra everything"!

Leading at a distance is about how you as a leader meet each person and your group. How can you as a leader create the conditions for warm relationships, a strong drive for results and job satisfaction even when you are geographically far apart?

Remote working increases JAG focus which does not favour interaction and a strong team spirit.

During the pandemic, many managers have found themselves in a new situation, not being able to meet with their staff in person but only digitally. What have we learnt? Well, several managers testify to both increased productivity and efficiency among those who worked at home. Others say just the opposite. Research, such as from the Denison Organisational Culture Survey that we have seen, show that the corporate cultures that have fared best during the pandemic are strong in flexibility, coordination and working together across borders.

Something that has been strengthened during the pandemic is also the employees' experience of autonomy, a positive experience of having been trusted by their manager together with the feeling of freedom to manage their work more independently than before. What we can conclude, however, is that there are also downsides to these benefits: more individualism does not always favour interaction and a strong team spirit. Every kid knows that it's no fun playing with someone who only wants to do what they want.

In other words, an increased JAG focus can come at the cost of reduced interaction and team spirit, which can ultimately have a negative impact on company culture. Here are some useful tips on how leaders can develop a warm and high-performance culture, even remotely.

Leading from a distance - creating proximity even if you are geographically far apart

When we do not meet physically but remotely, the same applies in principle as IRL leadership, but we need to do more of everything and in other channels. The basis is how you as a leader meet each person and your group. How you can create the conditions for warm relationships, a strong drive for results and job satisfaction.

Four key points for distance learning managers

  • Making everyone feel important in the group
  • Make everyone feel that they believe in the strategy, have clear goals and a good picture of what is happening in the organisation and in the world around them.
  • Make everyone feel that they have a mandate and control over their work, that they have confidence in how they carry out their tasks.
  • Make everyone feel valued and important to each other. Everyone needs to contribute to a team culture that is based on warmth, ambition and performance.

Meet your employee often

When we don't "bump" into each other at the coffee machine, you need to create quick reconciliations in other ways such as phone, chat, etc. Focus on how you are doing and how you feel. Give appreciation as often as you can.

Schedule weekly "one-to-one meetings" of about 15 minutes. Ask what the person expects from you as a manager, listen carefully and take notes. What are your expectations of them? Does the person perceive the objectives and expected delivery as clear? Are the goals realistic, achievable? Focus on both results and relationships. How does the person experience relationships with others in the group, the organisation? Which relationships need to be strengthened and how? How does interaction and co-operation work within the group and between other important contacts within the company or with the customer? How does the person find job satisfaction and performance drive? What is difficult? What is easy?

Show curiosity and interest by familiarising yourself with the person's work life, feelings, work structure, planning, etc. Show that you trust the person, they will not solve it exactly your way and that is ok. Don't forget to ask about perceived health, how your employee feels about work-life balance and everything that makes them feel good overall.

Creating shared goals and a warm culture in the team

Create consensus on your shared vision, goals and ambitions for the future. What is happening in the outside world and what changes affecting your business and organisation are ahead of you? What kind of journey are you on?

Create consensus on your meetings: What do you need to meet about to follow your steps on the path? What should your meetings be like, what do you need to spend time on? Involve the group in how you will create energy, a good team spirit and a drive for results at your meetings.

Build a strong culture. What do you want your relationships within the group to be like, what should characterise your group culture? What do you want others to say about you in the best of worlds (both internally and externally). Translate your desired culture into behaviours and how we then talk to each other. Also identify how we should not behave and how we should not talk in our company. Do not forget that high-performance teams have a great sense of humour and fun, are generous and often show appreciation to each other. Make sure your culture has elements of this! You as a leader need to be a role model.

Find tasks that parts of the group will solve together in between your larger group meetings. The sense of belonging and the ability to interact need to be cultivated and maintained all the time. Use quick ways to communicate with each other such as platforms like WhatsApp. Post things to celebrate, fun photos of everyday events. Happy holiday films, anything that helps us get to know each other, have fun together and build a happy generous atmosphere.

Build consensus on how you want to be monitored, both what you need and what the group needs to know about everyone's individual plans and progress or setbacks.

Regularly review your rules for a strong team spirit, inspire and encourage. Create a positive climate yourself, joke with each other, humour is a wonderful tool for feeling safe and enjoying performance!

Create a natural workflow

  • Schedule regular digital meetings with all or part of the group. Clear agenda, start and stop time, time for questions.
  • Create a management and monitoring system where it is clear who takes responsibility for what and when it will be completed.
  • See flexibility as an opportunity.
  • Encourage and help each employee to take responsibility for their performance, breaks, planning, skills development, etc.
  • Be clear about expectations and division of labour so that everyone knows who does what.
  • Securing information and documentation.
  • Set aside time each day when employees know you are available for contact.

Checklist - managing from a distance

  • Have more regular contact with your employees.
  • Increased clarity of objectives. Common and individual
  • Provide clear information and priorities
  • What are the expectations? What and how?
  • Give more feedback and appreciation.
  • Delegate and be clear about what delegation means.
  • You need to increase your listening skills and focus on increasing trust and building relationships.

Team spirit and culture determine performance

Remote and hybrid leadership, like all leadership, is about inspiring everyone to take responsibility for building the team spirit and culture that determines our performance, whether we meet IRL or remotely. Create closeness even if you are far apart geographically. Closeness is a sense of warmth and feeling important, competent and appreciated. Plan all your meetings carefully, write text messages with care and warmth. You as a person need to take up space, then closeness can be created no matter how far apart we sit.