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Outstanding Remote Leadership

by Gary Schuman, Ph.D. & Michael Frisch, Ph.D.

A Critical Skill in these Unprecedented Times

Even in the best of times, becoming an effective leader is a learned behavior.  Most individuals progress up the organizational ladder based on their technical prowess — not due to their leadership finesse.  Regardless of your background,  making the transition from great technical contributor to great leader takes a concerted effort and a plan. 

Because the COVID-19 pandemic requires most work be done remotely, there is additional pressure on managers to step-up their leadership game.  Without the usual daily workplace interaction, what leaders say, and more importantly what they do, takes on greater significance. 

Here are some “must do’s” for leaders in this unprecedented time:

  • Be Clear About The Impact The Corona Virus Is Having On You:
    • How are you feeling about the potential consequences of the current situation?
    • How are you dealing with the uncertainty, danger, and the impact on those closest to you?
    • What are you most focused on and how are you juggling your priorities?
    • Reflecting on the impact the current situation is having on you is essential to influencing the way you communicate with your direct reports — being authentic matters!
  • Spend Time Thinking About Each Of Your Direct Reports — (make notes)
    • What’s your best guess about how each one is feeling about the current situation? How high are their fears and anxiety?
    • Reach out and ask each one the same questions you’re asking yourself: How are they dealing with the uncertainty, danger, and the impact of the coronavirus on their family?
    • Ask how they are juggling their priorities?
    • Being empathetic to what each person is experiencing is essential. It will shape how connected your  direct reports feel to you — empathy counts!
  • Discuss What They Have Already Experienced And What You Can Do Next
    • Peter Drucker’s old quote: “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast” — counts doubly now. How has your organization communicated so far?  Has the right tone been communicated regarding empathy and expectations? 
    • Do your reports have deliverables that are critically important and/or time sensitive? Given their personal pressures can they reasonably accomplish these results on the expected timeline?
    • What help or support does each direct report need? Are there ways you can help?
    • Pay attention to your tone in emails. Intentions and emotional tone can be misinterpreted — it’s critical to check that your message is landing the way you want it to. It might be a good idea to experiment with sending short audio or video messages via email.  It’s a more personal touch and you have more control over the tone of your message.
  • Hold Check-ins And Be Available
    • Build in appropriate and non-intrusive interim check-ins to be helpful.
    • Avoid micro-managing.
    • Establish specific “office hours” when your direct reports can reach out to you for help/guidance.
    • Schedule regular video conferences Staff Meetings for direct reports and “All Hands” meetings

During these challenging times, It’s critically important that leaders are tuned into the fears and tensions their direct reports are experiencing. Leading during these scary times requires heightened self-awareness, authenticity and empathy.

gsGary Schuman, Ph.D.

For over 20 years Gary Schuman’s primary work has been in the areas of culture change, executive leadership, team building, facilitation, process improvement, and strategic planning.  He has worked in a wide variety of large and closely held companies such as: Apple, BBC America, Bloomberg LLC, Chartbeat, Fidelity Investments, Marriott, McKinsey, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Simon and Schuster, Sundance Channel, Viacom, West Elm and Zumba Fitness. Gary has worked extensively with Senior Executives in helping them build effective leadership teams. Gary’s approach is low on theory and high on action. His objective is to provide practical, hands-on solutions that make an immediate difference in the way senior leaders, their teams, and direct reports perform.

M FrischMichael H. Frisch, Ph.D. 

Michael’s expertise covers many human resource topics, including competency models, executive development, training, succession planning, and performance management.  His primary focus is delivering executive coaching services, which he has been doing for over 20 years.  He has worked with coaching clients in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, financial services, pharmaceuticals, media/publishing, telecomm/high tech, professional services, and consumer goods.  Michael derives deep satisfaction from helping his clients embrace new approaches to challenges and in so doing, foster their professional growth.  Versed in many assessment tools and a highly perceptive interviewer, he deepens his clients’ self-insight, especially on gaps between their intentions and their impact on others.  

Topics: Virtual Teaming