While you might assume that it’s much harder to lead from afar than in-person, recent studies show that isn’t necessarily true: remote leaders can be just as effective.
This is good news as remote work is no longer a workplace trend, but a bona fide shift. Up 115% between 2005 and 2015, many sources predict as much as 50% of the workforce will do at least part of their job remotely by 2020. In this mix are leaders at every level, up to and including the C-Suite. And like any other remote worker, it takes a combination of the right skills and mindset to be as effective at your job remotely as you would be on-site.
Research presented at the 2018 Conference on Human Robot Interaction supports the idea that telepresence technology garners higher ratings for social attractiveness and leadership quality when used by a remote leader versus one who is on-site.
This may be due to the fact that focusing on key areas of leadership is a stronger focus for those tasked with getting the most out of their teams from a distance. Strong leaders leverage technological innovations to do their job more effectively -- and deliver better bottom-line results.
Here are 4 ways that CEOs and other leaders can use telepresence technology to maximize their impact regardless of physical location:
Effective, nonverbal communication
Clear communication is at the heart of any strong relationship between a manager and his or her team. And it’s particularly important to build relationships face-to-face – as much as 93% of meaningful communication is nonverbal.
While we are constantly communicating in written formats (emails, documents, texts, etc.), looking someone in the eye when you talk is vital to supporting successful communication. Not only does it help build trust and support transparency, but often times it’s the nonverbal cues that allow you to get to the heart of unspoken conflicts and challenges. To be an effective remote leader, look for every chance to look your teammate in the eye and have a focused conversation.
Create collaborative opportunities
It can be hard enough to find time to collaborate when you’re in the same space; at a distance, especially where different time zones come into play, it can feel almost impossible. The strongest leaders understand that collaboration has to be fostered, and opportunities for it to happen organically must be created using technology.
For example, Portalarium CEO and video game visionary Richard Garriott works virtually 75% of the time, beaming in for the workday hours at his company headquarters in Austin, TX. Having a persistent presence allows him to collaborate in hallways, with employees at their desks, in ad hoc meetings – wherever brainstorming and collaboration happens.
Make it personal
Related to creating a collaborative culture, successful leaders make it a point to connect with their team in personal ways. As ET Group CEO Dick Propfe told us, “I believe CEOs are the role models that convey company values, culture, and leadership standards. It’s important for leaders to be able to engage their staff and be present. When CEOs truly make the effort and care about being with others in their organization on a non-formal basis, they get a sense of the pulse of the organization and can foster more fun, productive and exciting work environments.”
Creating an environment that’s conducive to remote work is key to what studies show supports happier, more productive, loyal and communicative employees. When leading from a distance, you can be a litmus test for the policies, practices and processes used by your remote employees. Having firsthand experience with the technology that works best for your office will also help you ensure your remote staff has all they need to succeed -- and excel.
Just because you’re a remote leader, doesn’t mean you should only lead remotely. The distance between you and your team is full of challenges and opportunities to be bridged by technology -- constructing a whole new avenue to evolve your leadership style and practices.