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Top 8 Tips Leading Teams Remotely

With the COVID-19 situation and companies implementing their BCP (business continuity plan), more people are working from home now. As a result, employees may feel disconnected, isolated, and even undervalued. According to Karen Sobel-Lojeski (2008), with high virtual distance, there is a 90% drop in innovation, 80% decrease in trust, and 60% decline in finishing projects on time and within budget. As leaders, how can we make our team and team members feel connected and valued, and decrease the virtual distance? In numerology, 8 means abundance and career success; so below are the top 8 tips when leading teams remotely.


With the COVID-19 situation and companies implementing their BCP (business continuity plan), more people are working from home now. As a result, employees may feel disconnected, isolated, and even undervalued. According to Karen Sobel-Lojeski (2008), with high virtual distance, there is a 90% drop in innovation, 80% decrease in trust, and 60% decline in finishing projects on time and within budget. As leaders, how can we make our team and team members feel connected and valued, and decrease the virtual distance? In numerology, 8 means abundance and career success; so below are the top 8 tips when leading teams remotely.

1. Help Employees Satisfy Their Psychological Needs

Working remotely, employees’ psychological needs may be threatened, which has an impact on performance and, in neuroscience, the way their brains function. Specifically, the need for certainty, relatedness and, in this case, too much autonomy. To help team members regulate these threats, communicate what the organization is doing and exude confidence, connect people and share how their work affects others (within the team and cross-functionally), and empower team members to have autonomy, within limits and guidelines, to achieve business goals.

2. Inspire & Engage

When leading and communicating, exude positive energy, use engaging, optimistic, decisive language, have a future/vision focus, and lead by example (walk the talk). This will create an “inspirational purpose,” and help build trust, relatedness and confidence in an uncertain environment.

3. Create a Team Identity

Karen Sobel-Lojeski defined virtual distance as physical distance + affinity distance + operational distance. Therefore, when working remotely, build affinity with your team and team members by being inclusive, having shared values and objectives, building trust (through inspiring and coaching them), and understanding them more personally. This will help reduce the affinity distance.

4. Create a Team Charter

To reduce “operational distance,” create a team charter, which includes roles, objectives/KPIs, responsibilities, ways we work, how we communicate (IM, call, video), resource management (documents, knowledge, etc.) and escalation protocols. Also, in times of uncertainty, communicate and over-communicate with them to pre-empt any confusion and mistrust.

5. Be Present & Available

Check in with your team and team members, but don’t micromanage. Be a mentor or coach as needed, and be a sounding board or creative partner for their ideas. Also, be a broker and provide access to other resources (technical help, global training initiatives, peer sharing) that would help them.

6. Coach for Performance

Set stretch goals for your team and team members, and follow up with them. Explore ideas with them, rather than micromanage, and share information and the “why” behind decisions and requests, speaking in an open and coaching way to engage them and, in neuroscientific words, put them in a “toward” state open to growth and development. Especially since working remotely, where ideas are more easily misunderstood and misinterpreted, continuously engage with them as a sounding board and performance partner. This will develop accountability, and ties in with the autonomy piece. Also, check on their well-being and work-life balance, as some team members may be overworking and (on the way to) burning themselves out. (Refer to "Top 8 Tips Working from Home" for tips on working from home productively).

7. Give Visibility

Be an enthusiastic cheerleader for your team and team members. Celebrate success remotely in your team (recognition, reward), and promote your team and team members to others in the organization.

8. Leaders of Leaders

For Leaders of Leaders, support and coach your people leaders (your direct reports) on doing all this too with their teams and team members.

So, now that more and more of our teams are working from home, let’s build some habits that will increase our productivity, build trust and strengthen innovation.

Leaders, put this into practice, and please do share this with other leaders too. Let your team and team members know what you are doing; and ask for feedback from them and suggestions how to do even more. As American football Head Coach Vince Lombardi said on his first day coaching the Green Bay Packers, “How am I doing?” and then took the team onto 5 consecutive championship (Superbowl) victories.

Let’s all get the most out of working from home.

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