Four Ways to Be a Better Leader in a Remote Work Environment

In the fourth and final installment of RESOLVE Increments, we hosted artist and speaker Phil Hansen. His life story is one of overcoming and even embracing obstacles and finding success. Phil’s combination of wit, wisdom and pure energy are a perfect ending to our RESOLVE Increments virtual conference.

Phil’s call for creativity in leadership is timely. The past year has presented new challenges and accelerated many of the changes at work that we anticipated but had not yet fully integrated. Change management is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I was pleased to share the slate with Phil. A summary of my presentation is below.

To gain full access to my talk, Phil Hansen’s keynote address and all the resources from RESOLVE Increments Week Four, go here.

How to Best Lead Change in this New Environment

I think it’s a given that we’re in a new environment. It’s been a recurring theme of this year’s conference. One thing I believe to be true is that we can’t expect to lead today, the way we’ve led in the past. To expand on that thought, let’s begin with a quote, a conceptual framework, some vocabulary and one of the most notable expressions of change in the workplace of the current moment.

The quote comes from the father of change management and best-selling author, Peter Drucker. He says, “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself but acting with yesterday’s logic.” Here’s a vocabulary term that we find ourselves referring to more often in recent times. “VUCA”.

VUCA stand for:

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity

Within these related and intertwined terms are two essential questions: how well can you predict the outcomes of your actions and how much do you know about the situation? What does it mean to lead through change in complex times? To answer that question, my team and I created our own VUCA. It looks like this:

  • Vulnerability
  • Understanding
  • Casting a Vision
  • Accountability

To illustrate the importance of these leadership characteristics, it makes sense to discuss them in the context of one issue broadly and deeply felt by the most employers and employees right now – remote work. It’s a real-life challenge, whether it’s work from home, hybrid or flexible arrangements. We can use this new VUCA framework to think about this current and future reality and how best to navigate it with success. Let’s take them one by one.

Vulnerability

Be real and authentic. We haven’t done a great job in the corporate world of having mental health discussions. We’re getting better. But as a leader you need to be more comfortable talking about mental health. Second, you need to let your team know your preferred work environment. And lastly, you need to set boundaries. Take care of yourself. Again, as hard-charging professionals, we tend not to be great at this.

Understanding

Let’s get the fuller picture. How do you do that when employees are remote? One, you can ask deeper questions. Two, you can apply empathy as you ask those questions and learn more about your people. Three, you can listen with an ability to change your mind. Check your biases and be willing to have your mind shaped by what you learn from others.

Casting a Vision

Share a less temporary perspective. Maybe you don’t know what five-year or ten-years looks like, but at least work toward knowing some of the path ahead. Express your pivots. Tie individual work to strategic direction. Refresh the vision as needed.

Accountability

This is simply managing goals and expectations. This is not as easy in the new environment. Productivity is just the beginning. Mental health is important. It’s about bringing the whole self to work. It’s also about establishing a rhythm that works by asking for and establishing boundaries. This includes making sure you take time off. You need to model healthy behavior as a leader.

If I was to add a fifth element to the VUCA framework, it would be “Agility”. You must be ready to adapt to change and lead the way. Be a leader. Be vulnerable, seek to understand, cast a vision and be accountable. We can have a healthy, productive workplace if we recognize and adapt to change.

Gain full access to Phil’s keynote, Rebecca’s presentation and all the resources from RESOLVE Increments Week Four here.

If you want to talk to me about organizational development, team performance, or any of the ideas you encountered during this year’s RESOLVE Increments, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly or on LinkedIn.

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