More companies today are allowing employees to work off-site to cut-costs, retain valuable employees and recruit top talent. Working remotely has its advantages and for many women leaders may be an essential part of finding better work-life balance. But leading from off-site also creates new challenges once you have lost the face-to-face contact with your team. Fortunately with a few key practices, you will not only be an effective manager, but a stand-out leader.
Know Your Team
Having an off-site leader isn’t for everyone. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if it will work successfully with your team members:
- Is each person an independent worker and a self-starter?
- Do they already have the strong communication skills needed to stay in touch?
- Does each employee actively participate in team meetings?
Foster Collaboration and Innovation
With the you as the leader, and possibly other team members, off-site it may be hard to keep up the sharing and flow of new ideas. You can start with setting a team environment that supports open communication and active participation during meetings. New ideas that have the team goal in mind should be encouraged, or even required. One way to keep employees motivated and engaged is to let them know that their contributions matter and are valued.
Set Clear Guidelines for Communication
When working off-site with a team, communication is even more challenging. Make your expectations of when and how they should communicate with you clear, as well as your hours of availability. Setting regular meetings and sticking to them will help keep communication flowing and you up-to-date on the progress of projects. Regular meetings also hold employees accountable for their work when you’re not onsite to supervise day to day tasks.
Prepare in Advance
Prepare for phone or video calls as you would an in-office meeting. Sending out an agenda or goal for the meeting ahead of time will give everyone involved time to prepare and have the information needed in hand. A clear agenda will help keep the conversation on point and wrapped up on time.
The technology available today lets us create an office nearly anywhere. A shared calendar is a convenient way to show when you are available, schedule meetings and communicate deadlines. Most remote communication takes place by email, but you can mix it up with video calls, chat tools, and digital whiteboards. The apps many of these programs have available for smart phones and tablets make it that much easier to hold a meeting from your home office or corner coffee shop. Utilizing a variety of tools lets team members chose one that they are most comfortable with, and therefore they are more likely to stay in communication.
While you can’t always have an open door policy (especially when you don’t have a door), it’s even more important that employees feel welcome to reach out to you outside of regular meeting times. This provides your team members more opportunities to check-in, get additional feedback, and gives you a chance to better lead and coach each individual member. That’s not to say you should allow impromptu calls to interrupt you throughout the day; you can set the expectation that they are to send an email or schedule an appointment on the shared calendar first.
Effective leadership skills can take time and lots of trial and error, but with the right fundamentals can be mastered both on- and off-site. Today women are afforded more choices of where and when they work, and we should embrace it at all levels.