Leaders are being challenged in new and radical ways as the impact of changes in demographics, technology, and the changing social contract between workers and employers are forcing organisations to re-design their structures to become more agile and customer-centric. So how can you truly engage your team?
The resulting structure is a ‘network of teams’ involving a more decentralized approach as people come together to tackle projects, before dispersing again and move onto new assignments.
The challenge in leading in this new environment lies primarily around communication. Whilst, leaders are challenged to adopt an approach that is more collaborative, coaching the team to work towards a common goal. The reality is that team members will often work remotely, come from different cultures and have very different expectations and ideas around the team’s purpose, roles and how it should be led. Achieving all of this whilst everyone is on the end of a phone line is no mean feat. Deprived of the bandwidth of non-verbal communication, leaders need to build the necessary levels of trust for people to share ideas and opinions, agree actions and learn as the project progresses.
Leaders need to work smart to sharpen their communication skills and move from a transmit mindset to one that truly engages the team. This involves some very important shifts:
Get comfortable with the technology. There are a lot of products on the market to make remote working more interactive and promote input from others. Communicating in this way is the new normal. Embrace the change, or others will.
Plan your communication. Focus on the why – this is what connects people with purpose, and vision. Think “less is more” reduce what you say to the minimum to have an impact. You need to create space for the ideas to sink in, and you need to create space for others to ask questions.
Speak with precision. Not everyone will understand your references and metaphors. Thinking about the diverse perspectives your team will have will orientate you to be clearer and more careful in your use of language.
Promote diverse thinking. Play to the strengths of having a diverse team. You need to encourage people to share their ideas and thoughts. Not everyone will want to contribute during a call, so use online forums and set community pages to facilitate better sharing.
Be curious not furious. The temptation will be to tell people. Resist it. The reality is people will far more likely take action if they have helped come up with the ideas. Use questions to illicit ideas, and to stimulate debate.
Ultimately the trust part is key. As trust is based on an emotional response, driven by the presence and behaviour of others, you will need to build skill in these above areas to demonstrate the required levels of credibility, reliability and intimacy.