Tips for Thoughtful Leadership When Managing a Distributed Team

April 28th, 2020

Thoughtful leaders - and especially "Sensitive Strivers" (those who are high achievers and at the same time, are highly self-aware, as well as deeply attuned to the environment around them and others) - often have questions and concerns based on meeting the communication and emotional needs of their teams. Some concerns might be around how to keep morale and productivity high, and how to emotionally support your team and allay any fears about economic uncertainty.

Here are some tips for thoughtful leadership, as you go about managing your distributed team:

  1. Swap audio for video
    Video calls are the new norm for a reason: they’re a placeholder for genuine connection when you can’t be co-located. Making it harder to multi-task on video feeds, you'll probably find your people are more present and engaged. 
  2. Overcommunicate
    Err on the side of overcommunication with your distributed team, especially in the beginning. Be sure to share expectations, reinforce standards, team goals and purpose, which all help provide a sense of calm in the chaos.
  3. Have a daily huddle
    To help keep tabs on who's working on what, and when, schedule a brief 15-20 minute daily huddle. Discuss what was accomplished, what's next up, and if any obstacles are preventing productivity.
  4. Set up pairing sessions
    Match up two team members to work on a project together, or to work on independent projects, or to use the time as a brainstorming/work session on a shared project. This is a great way to stave off loneliness and isolation, as well as boost accountability.
  5. Not everything has to be a meeting
    Need we say more? Check out some tools like Loom, to record short videos and screenshares as a way to offer feedback or send directions and delegate, without scheduling a meeting to do it.
  6. Don’t use messenger as attendance 
    Trust your team and allow them to pop on “Do Not Disturb” mode to get focused work done, because you’ll probably want to do the same. Likewise, be flexible and understanding if there’s some background noise or kids running by on video calls. Everyone is adjusting to having family at home and doing their best. 
  7. Create a celebration channel 
    Keep morale high by making a deliberate effort to celebrate and recognize your employees. Frequent and visible recognition is even more important when you’re not in-person, so create a channel in Slack or a similar tool where your team can high-five each other and share wins. Another way to liven up meetings is by going around and asking each team member to share a highlight from their day. 
  8. Use one on ones to check in
    Thoughtful leaders remember that their team is human, too. They may be wrestling with worries and concerns that are blocking them from performing at their best. Use one-on-ones as an opportunity to check in and ask questions like: 
    - What is working well? 
    - Where are you feeling challenged? 
    - How can I support you? 
    - What do you need from me to be successful?
  9. Manage your mindset 
    Self-doubt is a natural response to uncertainty and change. It’s a sign you care deeply about doing a good job and achieving the best possible results. Watch out for perfectionism and overworking. Tackle negative self-talk when it arises.

Read article in its entirety here.