Nearly six months ago, most organizations suddenly found themselves working remotely. The deep-rooted leadership habits developed by going to the office daily were turned upside down. Managers needed to quickly pivot to relying on online meeting and collaboration platforms, such as MS Teams, Zoom, and Slack.
What we know at Work EvoHlution, based on our 17 years of Industrial/Organizational Psychology research on remote leadership, is that certain skills and traits scientifically predict the capabilities specific to distributed leadership success. Traits and skills required to successfully lead teams in the office are not enough when leading remotely. Additional skills and behaviors need to be developed to master this new way of leading.
Skills and behaviors that we see as most in need of development include Communication Medium Match, Meeting Management, Time Zone Management, Organization, Planfulness, Gratitude, and Trust.
For example, take José, a leader whose company has decided to strategically move forward as a flexible and distributed workplace during and beyond COVID-19. José is not a naturally planful and organized leader. He is strategic and brilliant with ideas, but when it comes to setting weekly plans and priorities, he struggles. At the office he could easily track people down, update people in the coffee room, and bring his team together at the last minute as needed. In the newly distributed workplace, more planning is required as these chance encounters and last-minute meetings are not as feasible.
To better adapt to the new distributed workplace, José has completed the Distributed Leader Profiler, a valid and reliable psychometric assessment of remote leader capabilities launched in 2016 by Work EvOHlution. José also receives a coaching debrief of his report, which is a deep dive into 6 skill areas, 11 traits, and 13 capabilities. It is evident that José’s Communication Medium Match and Organization are his skills most in need of development. Choosing the appropriate communication medium, whether a call, video meeting, chat, or e-mail, must be intentional and fit the purpose. Many leaders get into the habit of over-relying on certain tools, while under-utilizing others, and José is no exception.
Sample of José’s Skills from his Distributed Leader Profiler Report:
Based on these findings, as well as other components of his assessment report, José has an action plan to implement and is eager to develop habits that will make things run more smoothly, and keep his team engaged.
Another tool José can rely on is Cassiopeia, a SaaS platform that helps managers lead remote teams effectively with data. José can receive actionable insights and customized best practices that boost his team dynamics and collaboration. Cassiopeia highlights communication patterns that may be regularly occurring without awareness.
José’s company wants to understand how the various tools and platforms were being used by their leaders to identify trends and help improve remote leadership. On José’s weekly reports, he can see how he’s communicating with others and how frequently he’s meeting with individuals and his team. Are new employees receiving enough of José’s attention? José can become more mindful about what communication platform is most effective for him to optimize his team’s communication.
Armed with this data, José can see how his habits are translating into communication and collaboration patterns with his team members. As great communication is a crucial component in remote team success, he can set up goals and track improvement over time to make sure he is intentionally communicating in a way that makes people feel supported, included, and “in the loop.”
In conclusion, it’s about understanding how each leader is predisposed and wired in terms of their skills and traits so as to develop their remote leadership strengths and gaps. Coupled with this deep insight and a solid action plan, leaders can be more mindful of their communication patterns, pivoting their process and style along the way.
Dr. Laura Hambley
Dr. Laura Hambley is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist based in Calgary, Alberta. Laura is co-founder and President of Work EvOHlution, which creates innovative assessment and developmental supports for mobile/remote employees, leaders and teams. Laura is an experienced consultant and entrepreneur who is passionate about addressing the critical role of leadership, work styles/personality, and team dynamics as they relate to distributed work. Over the past 17 years Laura has published extensive research on the critical success factors for effectively leading distributed teams and has developed and delivered seminars on distributed teams for organizations, universities, and international conferences. In addition to Work EvOHlution, Laura co-founded Canada Career Counselling (Toronto/Calgary), the Leadership Success Group, and leads a team of workplace psychologists across Canada.
Shiran Yaroslavsky, the CEO and Co-founder of Cassiopeia, is passionate about maximizing workplace experience through AI. Cassiopeia helps managers lead remote teams effectively with data, providing actionable insights to improve team dynamics, communication, and work-life wellness. By connecting to team communication channels (Slack, Calendar, Zoom, Email etc.), Cassiopeia analyzes team relationship patterns (not content) to deliver instant insights for managers.
Shiran is a thought leader in people analytics and remote team leadership who has been featured in leading business magazines such as Forbes and FastCompany as well as key industry conferences including Web Summit, PAFOW, and SHRM.
Shiran was featured in the 2019 Forbes 30Under30 list in Israel and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law.
Work EvOHlution has been a world leader in remote work success since our launch in 2014. We are a Calgary-based team of Organizational Psychologists committed to enhancing engagement and performance in distributed workplaces. We offer innovative assessment tools for leaders, teams, and employees based on research conducted since 2003, as well as consulting, coaching, and training solutions. Work EvOHlution specializes in supporting organizations both locally and internationally.