How to lead a remote team

Entrepreneur and business mentor Rebecca Newenham explores the best leadership approach for a team that isn't office-based.

How to lead a remote team

Entrepreneur and business mentor Rebecca Newenham explores the best leadership approach for a team that isn’t office-based.

Running a remote team requires a different leadership style. The old rules of management don’t apply. You can’t simply get everyone together in a room or rely on those ‘water cooler moments’ to find out what’s going on. Leading a remote team means rethinking how people interact and communicate with you as a leader and with each other.

Many leaders were thrust into managing remote or hybrid teams during covid, with little time or training in how to do it effectively. As someone who has led a remote team for over ten years, these are my top tips for leading a remote team:

Use face-to-face communication wherever possible

Don’t just rely on email. Use video calling to communicate if you can’t meet face-to-face. Seeing the other person gives you a much better chance of picking up on those non-verbal cues and understanding how they are feeling. Even using the telephone to call is better than email as it allows for more discussion and two-way communication.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and mix work and home life

Ask probing questions and be open to discussing personal issues with your team that might affect their performance at work. Being able to open up communication and support them in all areas of their life allows them to feel more connected to the business and able to contribute more. It’s much better to know if mental health issues are affecting your employees and to be able to support them.

When people came into the office daily, leaders could quickly pick up on someone unusually stressed or upset. But when your team is based remotely, it is much easier for things to slip under the radar and harder to notice. An individual might say they are ‘fine’, but don’t be afraid to ask – ‘Are you really?’

Make people feel included

One of the big complaints about remote or home working is that people don’t feel as connected. They don’t feel part of a team like they did when people sat in an office together. Think about how you communicate and ensure regular team updates so that no one feels left out or doesn’t know what’s happening. Choose whatever method works for you and your team. It might be a weekly virtual coffee and check-in on a Friday morning or a monthly newsletter. Encourage people to share their highlights of the week/month/quarter so that you can celebrate each other’s success and boost morale.

Consider each team member’s needs

We all have different personalities. For some people, remote working will be a welcome way of avoiding noisy offices and feeling like you’re ‘on show’ every day. Others will hugely miss the social aspects of working face-to-face. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees what they want from you as a leader and respond accordingly. Some will need more communication than others. Respecting and responding to their needs will help you get the best from each of them.

Don’t forget to have fun

Remember all those birthday lunches? Cakes on a Friday? Work is where we spend a lot of our time, and to get the best out of your team, they need to enjoy it and have fun. You can still have fun in many ways, even if you’re not based at the same location. Recognising birthdays and anniversaries or simply saying thank you for a job well done is still important. For example, I send new franchisees cupcakes to welcome them to the team or flowers to thank team members who have gone above and beyond. We also celebrate our PR win for the month and recognise a VA of the month who has made an outstanding contribution to the business.

If you really can’t get together in person, you can still have fun as a team online. From wine-tasting to murder mysteries and quiz nights, there are many ways to bring your team together virtually to build relationships. These team-building exercises can be incredibly valuable in the long term.

Hybrid and remote working are here to stay. Wherever your team is based, you can still be a great leader. Think about these critical areas to ensure you connect with your team effectively and drive your franchise forward.

Rebecca Newenham
Rebecca Newenham