I have been leading teams online for years. My role as a Krav Maga teacher lead me to mentor newly qualified and aspiring instructors around the world using the internet as a platform. Through online tools and applications I communicate with them and guide them through the coursework and preparation they need to do for any official qualifications. I have dedicated hundreds hours hosting and teaching instructor skills on a one-to-one and small group discussion basis. Below is a short list of useful tips for leaders based on my experience of online / remote leadership that you can combine in your chosen fields of employment.
1. Your attitude is key
Understand that, especially in the current environment, every team has a lot going on. We have additional worries in our lives now and we need real leaders of confidence and not managers of authority. A team from the office can absolutely learn to be even more productive from home but the leader must have that flexibility and strength of character and mind to guide them through the change and into a more productive working style. Regular work hours are also probably out for many people. Instead, trust your team and give them the freedom and flexibility to get work done on the schedule that helps them be the most productive.
2. Equip the team
You must make sure your team has the technology it needs to get the work done. If you suddenly have a team of remote workers, that means there's a good chance they need tools like laptops, software, mobile devices, or even a high-speed internet connection. It's not reasonable to assume that everyone has all of those things, and it's your responsibility as a leader to make sure they do. Check that they have the correct access to networks and the latest revisions of software. You are also responsible for the ergonomic health of the team, so set a standard for the home office desk layouts and promote a comfortable environment for them to work in.
3. Focus on the outcomes, and not the activity
No team leader should be trying to manage every aspect of the work done by a team. Trust in the team members to do the activity required and guide them to the outcome required. Imagine that they walk a path, but it is you who clears the way for them. Insure that they have all the equipment, info and contacts they need and be sure that they have the confidence in you and in themselves to ask for help should they need it.
4. Manage expectations
Discuss with each team member a series of tasks with clear goals. From that it’s easy to create realistic expectations for their work. By the way, "managing expectations" applies to you as a manager as well. Set yourself and your team up for success by clearly stating both the tasks and the reasons behind them, and help your team understand exactly how you will measure success. That means defining the scope, deadlines, and deliverables for each task or project the team is working on. Otherwise, don't be surprised if a few weeks from now you find yourself wondering what everyone was doing. Which brings us to ...
5. Communication is key
You need to be in regular communication with the team, but don’t hassle them. Perhaps one of the common features about working from home is the “less distractions” aspect, but this now drags in a strong sense of loneliness, which is especially true if you're used to a busy office environment. Scheduled one-to-one check-ins are important, I recommend 2 a week and the purpose is always simple - set the agenda and provide the feedback and resources the team members need. NEVER just call up and expect to be answered, this invites mistrust and that you are testing that the team member is sat there 9 to 5. Always message to schedule with an hour or so grace period, and include the topic so they can prepare. Remember that home office encourages flexibility and frequent breaks, but it is more important to remember that your company hired this person based on their skills and are fully capable. Trust them to do their job. As a leader, you can create a short daily briefing outlining your own aims and tasks so they the team knows when they can contact you. Have weekly group meeting to have open discussions, keep it tight and set on a specific update agenda, don’t allow it to slip into specifics that are not for the benefit of all in the team.