One of the opportunities that the pandemic revealed to organizations was the opportunity for our workplaces to become more flexible. With this “fast-tracking of flexibility” has come the challenge of leading people and teams who work in hybrid and remote ways.
Leading in this new context requires us all to behave differently. Leaders especially need to adjust so they can better REACH their employees and help them to feel connected and engaged despite the physically distanced way we now find ourselves working in.
*REACH is an acronym that we can use to remind us of the best practices for leading in our new workplace environments. It stands for:
Emphasize Responsiveness - be as available to your remote team members as your local ones. This means making sure you are accessible through more than one method, such as phone, email, text, videoconferencing, or any other communication platforms your company uses. It also means establishing regular check-ins and following up in a timely manner.
Use Empathy - connect with your team members and ensure that you acknowledge the validity of the ideas, issues, concerns, or feelings. As all individuals are unique, your team members are going to differ in their needs, perspectives, and contributions. It is important for you to connect with each team member and understand their differences. Be transparent with your team about any differences and create opportunities for everyone to learn from one another. Listen with authentic curiosity and promote a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing and sharing with the team.
Accelerate Accountability - help your team build ownership for results by ensuring you’ve communicated accountabilities clearly and concisely. It is important to actively keep up with accountabilities that are set. Reinforce objectives and goals by having regular progress meetings with team members to provide guidance and advice, as well as being open about things that are happening and changing in the company.
Create Connection - when your team or part of your team is working remotely, it is your responsibility as chief communicator to help create connections among staff. Work with your team to identify the technological interfaces (e-mail, texting, voicemail, videoconferencing, webcasts, etc.) that are appropriate to each situation. Distinguish when it is absolutely necessary to meet face-to-face and build in rituals to expand connections in virtual meetings (e.g. virtual water cooler discussions). Promote connection opportunities specifically with those team members who must be closely connected to achieve results.
Anticipate Help Needed - provide active support and explain all the ways you can help even without being asked. Respond speedily to individuals and your team and try to anticipate any help that will be needed. Foster helping relationships within your team and across departments and encourage leaders to support each other. This helps create a connection culture in your organization.
*Adapted from Leading Teams Is Virtually the Same, 2011, The Forum Corporation”.
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