Remote Leadership

Building Trust whilst Holding Teams accountable for Measurable Business Outcomes.

As a leader of 20yrs+, the last few years have seen me re-frame my leadership. Whether leading teams of 100 in a multi-national organisation to a small team running an association for an industry that I love; each has its unique challenges.

There was always flexibility in the direct selling model with entrepreneurs in the channel working from where ever they choose. I started as a direct seller, working from home in the 1990’s juggling around the needs of a family; and not much has changed as I find myself doing that again during these uncertain times except that the children are now older and have moved out and then back in again. I didn’t realise that starting a party plan business some 25 years ago would set me up so well for leading and working remotely.

I gave up a lecturing position because it did not allow me to collect my children from school. Now, I manage a team who have that flexibility, working hours around the school pick up and drop off.

As leaders of modern-day organisations, we have to look firstly at ourselves and then the culture we create. Is it a place of trust or fear? Do you trust your staff & co-workers to get the job done? How are we holding them accountable? Do we have the right measures in place in relation to outcomes not hours worked? If not, then no number of tools and processes that you put in place will allow you to lead a remote workforce.

Another aspect of creating a productive and vibrant culture has to do with who you attract to the business as well as who you find attractive – i.e. the right fit. Hiring team members on skills that cannot be taught or googled and looking at aptitude and attitude over formal qualifications has served me well over the years. In hiring a marketing manager, I hand-picked the best person I knew in building relationships. Another role was filled after lunch with the team: two equally qualified candidates on paper ended up poles apart when interacting with the existing team and the wait staff in the restaurant’s more casual setting. 

None of us work 9-5 anymore even before COVID, so as leaders, we need to have clear communications and measurable and transparent outcomes in place so that those you lead can hold themselves accountable. It’s proven that flexibility improves productivity and with clear boundaries and achievable outcomes in place; we can work where we want and when we want successfully. Last year the entire office move was managed by a remote member of the team on maternity leave around nap times and I’m sure late into the evenings giving her true flexibility. As long as the move was streamlined and hiccup-free, I was happy. And it was. I have no idea how many hours it took her. I paid for her to complete the task successfully.

Why do we still measure by hours? Richard Branson and, well, everyone else in the workforce all have the same number of hours in a day.  What we want from our staff is the value that they can bring to their work and as leaders, it is our job to help create the environment for that value to flourish. Flexibility is only flexible when it meets the needs of employees as well as the need of the business. If everything else is in place if we communicate well, and if we consistently re-enforce and re-assess then desired outcomes are inevitable. As are the smiles of empowered and engaged employees wherever they are.

Article by: DSA’s CEO, Gillian Stapleton

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