As Leaders of Remote Teams, We Need to Prioritize Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves

Your team has probably been working remotely for most of the last year now, and even as discussions about “opening up” begin to become more prevalent, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

That’s the question Google is tacking with a new set of policies recently rolled out by the company’s CEO. They center around just three words:

Flexibility and Choice.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and likely new normal?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Long-Distance Leader by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

As more organizations adopt a remote workforce, the challenges of leading at a distance become more urgent than ever. The cofounders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, show leaders how to guide their teams by recalling the foundational principles of leadership.

The authors’ “Three-O” Model refocuses leaders to think about outcomes, others, and ourselves—elements of leadership that remain unchanged, whether employees are down the hall or halfway around the world. By pairing it with the Remote Leadership Model, which emphasizes using technology as a tool and not a distraction, leaders are now able to navigate the terrain of managing teams wherever they are.

Filled with exercises that ensure projects stay on track, keep productivity and morale high, and build lasting relationships, this book is the go-to guide for leading, no matter where people work.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leadership has never been a simple task. Factor in the many complications of leading your team remotely, and it would seem that leadership difficulties have magnified exponentially.

According to author Kevin Eikenberry, “It may have always been lonely at the top, but now we’re literally, physically, by ourselves much of the time.”

Being a Long-Distance Leader may feel radically different from how you’ve led in the past, but the core part is still the same: you are a leader, first. 

Accept the fact that leading remotely requires you to lead differently.

What’s needed is a change in mindset from time-based working to results-based working, which calls for evaluating output rather than hours.

Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

There are three areas of focus all leaders must recognize and use to reach their maximum success.  

  • Outcomes—you lead people with the purpose of reaching a desired outcome. 
  • Others—you lead with and through other people to reach those outcomes.
  • Ourselves—you can’t leave yourself out of this model. While leadership is about outcomes and other people, none of that happens without you whether you like it or not.

At the highest level, organizations exist to reach outcomes of one sort or another. As a Long-Distance Leader, this focus on outcomes is, if possible, even more important and can definitely be harder. There are three reasons for this difficulty:  

  • Isolation. When people are working remotely, they are likely alone more of the time, often leading to silos of the smallest nature – people acting as if they are a team of one, and forgetting how their outcomes are part of the larger whole.
  • Lack of environmental cues. Working from a home office or remote location, people do not receive the very clear clues and cues that reinforce the organizational focus.
  • (Potentially) less repetition of messages. Unless leaders consistently, and in a variety of ways, communicate and reiterate the goals and outcomes for the team, people may get lost in their own bubble.

Long-Distance Leaders must also focus on others. Here are seven reasons why: 

  1. You can’t do it alone anyway. Leadership is about the outcomes, but those must be reached through others.
  2. You win when they win. True and lasting victory comes from helping others win, too.
  3. You build trust when you focus on others. Focusing on others and showing them you trust them first will build trust with others.
  4. You build relationships when you focus on others. When you’re interested in, listen to and care about others, you build relationships.
  5. You are more influential when you focus on others. Since we can’t control people, only influence them, our focus on others will help be a positive influence.
  6. Team members are more engaged when you focus on them. People want to work with and for people who they know believe and care about them.
  7. You succeed at everything on “the list” when you focus on others. Whatever your to-do “list” contains, by focusing on others first, achieving that list will be more successful.

The great paradox of leadership is that it isn’t about us at all—as we have just said, fundamentally leadership is about outcomes and other people.

Finally, who you are, what you believe, and how you behave plays a huge role in how effectively you will do the other things. Here are three reasons why Long-Distance Leaders must focus on themselves:

  • Assumptions. You have assumptions about what it means to work remotely. We could give you the statistics that show teleworkers are more productive, but if you don’t believe that, or assume people are multitasking on non-work items while they are at work, you will operate based on that belief rather than the facts.
  • Intention is important, but not enough. Throughout this book we talk about being intentional with nearly everything. Here, though, the challenge lies in the gap between what you want and mean to do, and what you actually do.
  • Making a decision. As a long-distance leader, you will face many choices and have lots of ideas. But none of them will work until you decide to act.

Kevin Eikenberry and Gary Turmel, The Long-Distance Leader

A NEXT STEP 

Use the following questions by author Kevin Eikenberry to honestly evaluate how you are practicing the three “O” principles listed above: Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves.

  • What do you feel are the most important outcomes expected of you as a leader?  
  • How has working remotely impacted those outcomes for you and your people?  
  • What do you feel are the most important ways to focus on others in your organization?  
  • How has working remotely impacted that focus?  
  • How do you see yourself in your role as a leader?  
  • How has leading remotely impacted your beliefs and behaviors?