How do you connect with your team members when you work miles apart? Leaders lose the convenience of walking the floor or passing each other at the coffee pot. They gain the responsibility of picking up the phone or sending a chat message to engage with each employee. It takes great intentionality. Taking fifteen minutes a day and asking these three questions in a one-on-one check-in will help you lead remotely with great success.
Question #1: Tell me about your highs and lows, personally and professionally. This question checks the employee's emotional state. The high moments define their motivators. The low moments define their stressors. A leader's role is to listen actively and show empathy. Warning, your role is not to fix their emotional state or become their therapist.
Finding personal connection in a remote work environment is critical. It is like trust; it must be handled with care as it can be quickly lost. Dr. Brene Brown said, "Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection." Empathy requires us to recall or reflect on feelings that are uncomfortable and try to take the perspective of the other person. Employees want their leader to be human and show vulnerability. Having an empathy exchange leads to the ultimate connection with the profits of high employee engagement and successful productivity.
Question #2: What tools, resources and support do you need to be successful? This question identifies constraints that the employee may be experiencing in a remote work environment. It allows the leader to proactively address the situation and solve the problem. It puts accountability on the employee to speak up and minimizes poor performance due to a lack of tools, resources and support.
What are tools? A tool is anything used to accomplish a task or purpose. Standard operating procedures, job aids, checklists and playbooks are the most commonly used tools. A remote employee will need their tools in an electronic format for easy access and accessibility. Once the documents are electronic, they should be shared in a community location for the team to view.
What are resources? A resource is a means to achieve the employee's capabilities in their job. The necessary resources will vary by team and may vary by employee. Technology and people are essential for all remote workers. Do your employees have access to the systems and software necessary to complete the lifecycle of their daily work assignments? Do your employees have access to subject matter experts who respond promptly? A daily check-in allows you to identify any gaps or challenges proactively.
What is support? A leader's role is to maintain the team and function by supplying the necessities to exist. Simply said, a leader provides vision, guidance and appreciation for each team member. Finding the appropriate level of support is critical for the leader and must be spread equally among the team members. A leader who finds themselves overloaded with tasks and no time to support their people should delegate. People first, always.
Question #3: How can I improve as your leader? This question turns the conversation into a vulnerable state of feedback for the leader. It's scary. It's hard. It's necessary. Being in a state of curiosity allows the leader to identify blindspots, seek guidance from the employees and implement change. Leaders should always remain open minded and ask for specific details or scenarios that illustrate the behaviors. Do not get defensive. We all learn and grow through mistakes and feedback.
Taking time to check-in with these three questions will connect you to your employees, your team and your function even when you are miles apart.
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