Leading the isolated worker: Do you know your teams?

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With the rise of COVID-19, a high percentage of the workforce in America became remote workers overnight. For leaders whose teams normally share an office, this can present a host of new challenges. 

How can you lead effectively when employees are greeting each other with Slack rather than handshakes? Or when meetings are held on Go To Meeting rather than in your conference room? 

While there have been many technical challenges related to keeping teams communicating and working from home, one challenge that rarely gets talked about is how do leaders know what team members need to be effective while working in isolation with new distractions and interruptions?

Some remote workers feel isolated by working alone, while others feel energized. Some love the easy access to work and avoiding a long commute. Others need to have clear boundaries between office and home. Some do their best work late at night, while others work better with strict office hours. 

Accepting a remote worker’s style and preferences is important for managers to understand to prevent burnout, unhappiness and a sense of desperation that goes along with the fears associated with a global pandemic. 

Do you and your managers understand what team members need to feel cared for as a person? Do you know what your people need to be set up for success when working under new stressors and circumstances? Understanding who your team is and what they need is a fundamental  element to keeping these isolated workers engaged.

At the Vantage Group Inc., we have found successful remote teams have a few things in common: good communication skills, high emotional intelligence, an ability to work independently and the resilience to recover from the difficulties that inevitably arise. 

Leaders should conduct behavioral interviews and personality tests for remote teams like DISC, 12 Driving Forces and Competencies to screen for all those qualities. These tools help assess employees’ weaknesses; then train them in the skills they’re lacking, encourage them to coach one another and consider reassignment for those who don’t make progress. 

With intentional and thoughtful management, plus a focus on a few key needs, your leadership  can unlock your team’s potential for delivering high performance outcomes.  

In the case of COVID-19, many remote teams have not formed by choice and you may be asking, “What do I do with the people that don’t have these traits for successful remote work?” Or, “What do I do with a team that was never intended to work remotely yet find themselves with no choice but to be remote?”

It starts with you, the leader. 

Consider virtual assessment analysis and coaching as well as virtual leadership development.

Continuing to use these tools shows your organization values people. You are placing an emphasis on the needs of individuals who have the power to elevate your success. You are putting an effort into meeting not only the basic needs of your people but cultivating an environment where they can individually blossom. You have to want to put people first.

It won’t always be easy, but the benefit will outweigh the effort.

Darrell Crawford is the founder and president of the Vantage Group, Inc., where he assists leaders in driving business results throughout their organizations and their teams as a unified force. He can be reached at darrell@vantagegroupinc.com. 

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