remote leadership

Working From Home Is Great But Remote Leadership Sucks!!

Two years ago, if someone said to me that most employers would be happy for their employees to work from home on multiple days of the week, I would have asked what planet they were from.

And if they had added that most of these WFH days would be Mondays and Fridays I would have said they were crazy!!

But here we are, with a whole new business world. A world of challenges, sure, but certainly a world of opportunities that was triggered by a resilient and deadly virus.

There is no doubt that in most cases WFH has dramatically improved work/life balance. An example is a conversation I had last week with a father who was saying how his relationship and involvement with his two daughters has gone to a whole new level, in main because he now only goes into the office once a fortnight.

But there is a kicker, and it is a big one: leading remote employees is about four times harder than if they are all under the same roof ……. and let’s be honest, most managers were struggling with day-to-day people leadership even before COVID hit.

So, what is the answer?

I truly believe it is an opportunity. In the past most leaders learned to manage and direct their people on the fly – once they had failed enough times, they thought they had finally got the hang of it. The reality is that only about half got the hang of it, whereas the others are still not leading their teams properly, WFH or not.

To boost your remote leadership capability, I have provided a few tips you may find helpful:

  1. Improve your self-awareness
    By improving your self-awareness you will be in a far better position to understand the people you work with. Furthermore, by developing a better understanding of your employees’ core behaviours, cognitions, and abilities, you can dramatically improve employee engagement and performance as a manager and leader. You will be able to provide your remote employees with targeted support, guidance, and mentoring, which will maximise their performance even when they are not in the office.

To achieve these results, we suggest you use a high-level, predictive psychometric assessment. Selecting the right tool is essential for success here – we recommend you look into the ProfileXT or JobFit Executive, as four quadrant personality assessments (e.g. DISC) do not provide the accuracy or depth required for effective results.

  1. Get the team together
    I do not believe that you can have a 100% WFH environment. Your team still needs to spend time together, in one room, in three dimensions. I suggest you have your whole team together once a fortnight at a minimum, and preferably once per week. In between face-to-face days, make sure you have online team catchups every one or two days.
  2. Give employees a choice
    We have found that individuals with lower Attitude and Independence levels have tended to struggle with WFH. They can get anxious and lonely. If you have an employee that wants to come to the office more than others, let them. Do not have a hard and fast policy that all employees must adhere to. Remember that everyone is different, and your direct reports are certainly not like you, so just because you like something doesn’t mean they will too.
  3. Assist ambitious employees to progress
    Due to WFH, all of the conversations that were naturally had in the lunchroom, in the hallways and before/after meetings are not happening. While your direct reports are having just as many conversations with you, they are not having the conversations with all of the other executive leaders. The result is that they are not forming these relationships and are therefore not provided the chance to show their credentials. This decreases their likelihood to be automatically considered for future roles that carry more responsibility. Talk to the other executive leaders and ask them whether they would be happy to have one-on-ones with some of your team so that they can form relationships. Then inform your team that if they would like to have regular one-on-ones with any of the other executive leaders you are happy to arrange it for them.

Work-From-Home is going to be a permanent part of working life so we may as well get it right from the start.

If you would like further information and/or assistance please don’t hesitate to contact our team at or +61 2 9936 9000

Written by Mark Purbrick

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