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7 Leadership Tips for Inspiring WFA Teams and Hitting Bigger Goals

Summary: Remote work increased dramatically during the global pandemic. Today, companies must adapt to the new Work From Anywhere (WFA) model while keeping their teams cohesive and productive day after day. This article includes seven creative ways to inspire your people from a distance.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work forever, and many businesses and organizations are searching for ways to make a remote workforce a permanent, productive solution. In truth, only 26% of Americans who are employed full- and part-time share that their ideal working situation would be to work outside the home. Another 19% would prefer to always work from home, while 41% would prefer to have some combination of working remotely and also working outside the home.

This means that about 60% of working Americans would like to have the option to work remotely at least some of the time moving forward. And companies need to be prepared to adapt to meet this demand.

Working from home, also known as Work From AnywhereTM (WFA), doesn’t have to mean scaling back on your initiatives or reducing your target goals. Instead, companies that focus on their overall strategy and leadership skills hit higher targets than they ever thought possible — even with teams spread out everywhere.

In this article, we’re sharing seven tips on how to ensure a WFA model still keeps you moving toward bigger and better things. Here’s how you can make this happen at your organization.

1. Get Teams Engaged from Anywhere

Let’s face it: working outside the office can be challenging. Parents working from home find it hard to balance kids and work tasks, and WFA requires a great deal of discipline. Some organizations may respond to this by stripping down work obligations to only the essential tasks, but this only makes it harder for employees to connect to their work. As Harvard Business Review explains, “The key is resisting the temptation to make work tactical only through strict processes, rules, and procedures.”

Having guidelines and boundaries in place helps a little, but it also can lead to demotivation. Employees give up on creativity and problem-solving and just do the bare minimum. What is even more beneficial is giving employees the chance to solve problems that actually matter, or as Harvard Business Review shared, “If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging.”

WFA is the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing — if you set that precedent. Use your weekly and / or quarterly meetings to ask your team what new services your organization can offer, what problems need to be fixed, how they would drive growth, or how they can make a difference in the lives of your clients. By working to solve these kinds of problems, you’ll build team engagement.

2. Keep Your Mission at the Forefront

Your organization likely was founded with a sense of purpose in mind, but it’s easy to forget about this from day to day. This is why it’s important to communicate a compelling vision for why your team is doing the work. They will be more driven to achieve your project goals if they understand the why behind the work.

This may seem simple, but it’s easy to forget the mission when going remote. It can’t be something you share once and never speak about again. Instead, it requires constant re-focusing so that everyone’s work is always centered around the mission. Even sharing a message about how the organization’s work is making an impact can keep the big picture in focus for your team.

3. Set Clear Expectations

It’s hard for your team to achieve goals if they don’t know what they are. By providing guidelines, setting boundaries, and offering clarity about what priorities, milestones, and goals are important, you can ensure everyone is on the same page.

But this doesn’t just apply to establishing and conquering work-related goals. Expectations about establishing a work-life balance are also essential to making sure that your employees are happy and rested, not frustrated and burnt out.

Set clear expectations and model behaviors about the hours your employees are working. This includes expectations about responding to emails or texts after-hours and separate working hours from real-life hours, which can be hard to do when you aren’t commuting to and from an office each day.

4. Establish and Maintain Your Company Culture

If there’s anything we’ve learned since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it can be hard (but definitely not impossible!) to feel connected when we aren’t physically in the same space. With a remote setup, it’s especially important to be thoughtful about your company culture since there’s no opportunity for water cooler talk or in-person lunches with coworkers. However, you can find other avenues to ensure your employees feel connected to your organization and your team.

Recognition is a big way to make sure employees still feel appreciated, and new forums like Slack channels are a great way to share shoutouts and recognition. Other ways to build company culture include:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly face-to-face meetings with the optional ability to call in from anywhere
  • Virtual happy hours or “water cooler meetups” that involve games or fun activities
  • Establishing a committee dedicated to establishing culture through untraditional activities
  • Opening a fun chat channel within Slack

5. Empower Your Team

WFA may lead some supervisors to micromanage their teams, constantly checking in asking for updates since they aren’t working in the same building where they can see progress happening in person. But this can make employees feel as if their organizations don’t trust them. 

Instead, focus on empowering your team, allowing them to make decisions, and finding other ways to let them know you trust them. Connect their efforts through a Company Operating System to increase transparency and connection across the organization. During quarterly meetings, get feedback on how to improve the remote work environment. This kind of mindful, hands-off management will motivate your team and give them ownership over their work and pride in their company. 

6. Prioritize Communication Above All Else

Both in-person and working remotely, it’s vital that you communicate with your staff, even just from a logistical standpoint, to manage things like deadlines, resources, work-related issues, schedules, and company expectations. But it also helps build trust. 

Your communication tool should be carefully chosen to fit your company’s culture. With a range of options available, there’s a communication channel for every business, including:

  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Phone calls
  • Video chats
  • Slack
  • Intranet channels

Additionally, it’s essential to strike a balance between checking in and ensuring your employees feel like part of a team and not pinging them constantly throughout the day until they feel frustrated and pestered. 

The best way to do this? Ask your employees what works for them. This way, you can help each employee in a way that makes sense for their individual processes.

7. Don’t Forget to Listen

The best managers are also the best listeners. This means communicating trust and respect, asking about workloads and progress (without micromanaging), and erring on the side of communicating a little too much. 

However, it can be easy for managers to forget that communication is a two-way street. Conversations are also an opportunity to hear your team out and find ways to make it easier for them to do their jobs more effectively. 

Asking for feedback is a great way to learn more about the needs and wants of your employees. You can do this with tools like surveys and check-ins — but remember, whenever you ask for feedback, you need to be prepared to do something about it. 

Action Steps

Ready to take action and give your remote workers a much-needed dose of inspiration? Here’s a short summary of the steps to take.

1. Get Teams Engaged from Anywhere: Stop thinking of distance as a barrier and assume you can engage people fully no matter where they are.
2. Keep Your Mission at the Forefront: Create a compelling vision and help your employees picture it in their minds.
3. Set Clear Expectations: Maintain crystal clarity about each person’s expectations.
4. Establish and Maintain Your Company Culture: Find new ways to nurture your company culture that doesn't depend on location.
5. Empower Your Team: Allow your people to make decisions and provide feedback.
6. Prioritize Communication: Support employees’ varied and individual communication styles.
7. Don’t Forget to Listen: As a leader, make listening your top priority and remember the best managers are also the best listeners.

About the Author 

Kari Foote, director of leadership development at Leadership Resources, is passionate about working with leaders to achieve great levels of personal and professional success. She has over 18 years of experience in a variety of fields in the public sector, including law enforcement and emergency management, banking and finance, and human services. Kari enjoys time with her husband and daughter, camping, and reading.

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Topics: Organizations

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