In 1964, the first remote control for a TV was created. Sometime after that, the TV watching experience changed forever. The remote made it easier to watch and control the television. Quite possibly earlier this year you created a remote team. You may not have wanted one, but here you are. And while the remote control helps TV viewing, remote leadership control doesn't help you at all.
It might seem like remote leadership control would be necessary, don't equate leadership with TV watching. However smart televisions become, they will never be people. And while you can control the TV set with your finger or voice, you can't - and shouldn't want to - control people the same way. So how do you get great results with your team when they aren't in the same building and you can't see them?
Four key steps to take away your desire for remote leadership control
- Create guardrails
When you have a toddler you are always watching them, trying to protect them from making a mistake that might break something or injure them. Unfortunately, too many leaders treat their team members the same way. If you are used to watching people and correcting regularly, you will naturally wonder how you can do this when you can't see them. This worry has led to edicts of always-on webcams, keystroke software and more. Trying to create remote leadership control is based on the faulty assumption I've just described - that your team members need the same watchful eye as a toddler.
Your team members are adults who can think, reason, and communicate. Treat them and expect them to contribute to their own success. Rather than continuing to watch and correct, help them understand your perspective and needs. Then create clear boundaries and guardrails so they can be safe and successful without your watchful eye.
- Establish the finish line
Do your team members understand what success is? Understanding the boundaries are part of that - the rest is knowing what success is. Help people understand what the goals and metrics are. Let them know how they can score their results and share them with you. Your role then becomes one of helping them succeed rather than checking up on their work. After all, if they don't know what success is, how likely will they succeed?
- Value their input
When everyone was working in the same place, it was easier for you to take the pulse of the team and have a sense of what people needed. With a remote team you can't know things in the same way you might have before, and that is ok. If you try to make all the decisions and coordinate all the activity, you will wear yourself out, and create team members who feel no ownership. Ask people what they need. Use their eyes and insights to make decisions. Ask them what they see and recommend. Their perspective and insight is too valuable for you to ignore or overlook.
- Focus on accomplishment, not results
Some leaders confide in us that they struggle leading remotely in part because they feel like they can't know what people are doing. I propose that you didn't really know what they were doing when they were in the office either. If you have clear expectations - both guardrails and a finish line, why should you care if people take a break to fold their clothes? However, if you are viewing success as "in your seat working", you are focused on the activity, not the accomplishment. What you want and need and are paying people for, in almost all cases, is not eyes on the laptop, but results. Getting that clear in your own head is the first step towards releasing the need for remote leadership control.
The good news
When you do these four things you will trust your team members more and let go of your need for control. And when you have done them well, you won't need to exert control, but you will still get to make your job easier and more enjoyable, just like what that slim box with buttons does for you as a TV viewer.