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How to Inspire a Remote Team

January 11, 2021 Deana LaFauci

Ten months into a global health pandemic, organizations and employees are still adjusting to a new, changed reality of the workplace. With many organizations extending work from home through the summer or even 2022, remote work is here to stay 

Leaders have an opportunity (and a responsibility!) to inspire each member of their team to perform at the highest levels, regardless of where they log in from.  

“Creating energy, excitement, and connectivity is really critical in this disconnected yet connected world,” said Courtney Gentleman Schill, SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Payment Solutions at Synchrony. “We have to give and share of ourselves even more so now than ever.” 

The remote culture leaders create, and support, will empower teams to reach new heights in 2021, and after almost a year of continuous remote work, we have identified five tips to follow to inspire and engage your remote teams. 

1. Embrace compassion

Has the way you “show up” at work changed since this health pandemic began? If it hasn’t, should it?  

Leaders, teams and employees are experiencing stress, uncertainty, swift deadlines, and new challenges at homefrom new or increased childcare and elder care responsibilities, to navigating a changing world. Leaders have the opportunity to acknowledge this reality and bring compassion to their leadership in way that inspires their teams.  

“We often as women leaders shy away from what’s considered stereotypical female qualities,” said Paige Olson, Deputy Chief Counsel at The Walt Disney Studios. “We want to be tough; we want to be capable, but I think compassion, particularly as we go through these difficult times, is a quality all leadersmale or femalereally need to bring to the table.” 

This type of honest leadership inspires others to live authentically, allowing them to unlock new success in times of uncertainty. “Share authentically and honestly the challenges you’re facing,” said Olson. “Maybe you don’t have an answer for everything. Being honest about that creates an environment where everyone else can step up and say, Okay, I get it, you’re human, we’re human, we’re dealing with some fears and uncertainties, but we’re in this together. That’s a healthy way to go forward.”  

2. Define purpose for your teams

Just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organizations values to their work every day, and only 27% strongly agree that they believe in their organizations values.  

When employees can personally connect with an organization’s mission and values and can identify personal purpose, organizations see better business outcomes. Linkage research shows that companies that develop leaders who do things for a purpose and with a purpose enjoy 2x stronger revenue growth, 4x profit growth and 9x employee engagement. 

In this volatile and changing work environment, goals and priorities may be constantly shifting, making it harder for employees to see the bigger picture or understand why the work they do is important. Bottom line: Teams are more inspired to achieve results when they understand why they’re doing the work. The best leaders are purposeful leadersthey identify both their personal and organizational purpose and communicate it clearly to their people.  

In one-on-one meetings with team members, take time to lift up to explain how their work ties into a broader strategy or initiative. Set context for your teams by opening each meeting or organizational update with an overview of why the organization is taking on this work or initiative 

3. Recommit to women leaders

Here is what we know for sure: This crisis has disproportionately impacted women. The UN warns that we are at a critical moment when the progress toward gender parity of the past two decades could be reversed. 

“I would say that for women leaders especially, we must make sure that were checking in more often with them,” said Sherlaender (Lani) Phillips, Vice President of Channel Sales, US One Commercial Partner at Microsoft Corporation. “Because they’re not only shouldering the burden of the organization that they have responsibility for, nine times out of ten, they’re carrying the burden of their family at home.” 

Phillips points to flexibility as a key way for leaders and organizations to meet the unique needs of womenand to acknowledge the need for time for self-care. “Women are just known to be nurturers by nature, so I think its important to check in with them and say, Hey, lets make sure you take a day off for some self-care,’” said Phillips. “Care enough about them to force them to take some time off to take care of themselves.” 

4. Rethink what “culture” looks like in the remote world

Culture matters more than ever. Highly engaged employees are 21% more productive and 22% more profitable, and supporting an inclusive and engaging culture can help unlock improved business outcomes.  

What did a friendly, engaging and fun company culture look like in 2019? Company BBQs, ping-pong tables in the breakroom, or chatting over a cup of coffee. A shift to remote work means we must rethink and readjust how we build and support an organizational culture.  

Many organizations are proud of the in-person company cultures they have createdbut this culture doesn’t automatically carry over to the remote world. Leaders must be purposeful about inspiring connection and a sense of community, both through initiatives they run or host themselves, and by allowing employees the time and space to connect with one another in informal ways.  

5. Identify your own “superpower”and the superpowers of your employees

What’s your superpower, that special ability that allows you to contribute to your team and bring your purpose to lifeUnderstanding your own superpower can be an important tool during times of uncertainty, as expectations soar and challenges abound.  

Each person has their own superpower,” said Ekpedeme (Pamay) M. Bassey, Chief Learning Officer, The Kraft Heinz Company. “Especially in times of challenge, you must make sure youre clear what your strengths are so that you can lean toward those strengths to make it through challenging times.  

Storytelling, comforting, analyzing, seeing the big pictureor getting into the detailsare all superpowers that benefit the team and the organization. By understanding your own superpower, you can speak to it and share it with your team, giving team members a new language for how they talk about their talents and contributions. And, by guiding them to identify their own superpowers, you can inspire your people to celebrate their talents and empower your teams to thrive in 2021.

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