Great leaders are not responsible for the work, they are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work.

Become the leader that you would like to have.

Leading a team is not an easy task. Many people suffer daily from leaders who fail to make their teams work. Why it happens? It has to do with the way professional development is managed in organizations.

When you are a junior your main responsibility is to do your job well. You get paid and valued for how well you do. And your company invests a lot in your training, precisely so that you can do it even better. Over time someone proposes you to promote to a position in which you become responsible for people who do the work that until then you did. But no one has taught you how to do that. You become a boss, but you are not a leader yet. You have not made the transition and you tend to get involved in what you feel strong in, which is nothing other than what has made you promote. And right at that moment you start to practice micromanagement. Many HR managers must be familiar with this script …

The most important challenge in becoming a good leader is to start assuming that you are no longer responsible for the work, you are now responsible for the people who are responsible for the work. The focus should be on taking care of those in your charge. It is a transition that can take more or less time. Some never get to do it, and inevitably fall into the so-called Peter Principle.

So far the difficulties of assuming the role of leader. But if the teams do not share physical spaces, the quantitative possibilities of maintaining contact with them is reduced. And the difficulty increases.

Here are some tips, from my experience, to lead high performance teams remotely:

FIRST.- It transmits the purpose of the team and clarifies its objectives.

Many leaders are very good at telling their teams what to do and how to do it. It’s about assigning tasks and following established procedures. It is logical, but if you stay in that part of the management of your responsibility as a leader, it will be very difficult for your team to connect with something greater. Something that transcends your day to day. One of the most important responsibilities is that, as a leader, you explain very well what is the purpose of your team and of each of the people that make it up. When I speak of purpose, I mean the answer to a single question: Why do we do what we do?

Therefore, start by sharing with your team the purpose of what you do and leave the details of the procedures and tasks for later. If you do it like this you will achieve higher levels of ‘engagement’. You will go from connecting with your limbic brain instead of your neocortex. You will go on to connect with their emotional side instead of their rational side. If you believe in that purpose (because it makes sense to you), your team will probably believe in what you believe.

Once your purpose is communicated, be sure to set very clear goals that everyone understands in the initial stage. An essential characteristic of remote or hybrid teams is that the levels of supervision decline over time, so it is important that they understand the objective at the beginning of the journey. You put the gas, and let them drive …

SECOND.- Build interpersonal trust.

Trust is the foundation of all team management, and hybrid work environments make you have to build it by providing an extra proactivity. You need people to maintain personal connections in the distance, the basis for maintaining trust. Without personal connection there is no trust. The distance between people does not help them connect. You must serve as a catalyst for those connections. Become the synapses of those neurons that are the members of your team.

You will need to exercise your leadership so that people feel safe to raise their hands and acknowledge when they make a mistake. Or feel confident to tell you that they have a problem at home and that it is affecting their work. Or that they need more training for a new responsibility, of which they do not have enough knowledge. If you don’t build trustworthy teams, you could end up with a group of people who show up for work every day lying, hiding, and pretending. They will hide mistakes for fear of getting into trouble. They will not admit that they do not know what they are doing for fear of being humiliated. Remember: The most important question you can ask yourself as a leader is not whether you trust your team, but whether your team trusts you.

THIRD.- Communicate with predictability.

Poorly managed remote computers tend to have unpredictable communication patterns. Often just one or two people account for the majority of communications. The rest remain crouched, waiting for news. In well-managed teams, communications are regular and predictable. It is a rule that you must take into account, because, I repeat once again, distance makes spontaneous communication difficult. This is not to say that it is more difficult to communicate in these types of environments. It simply has to be planned, and the leader is primarily responsible for that planning. It is not too difficult to plan a meeting agenda six months ahead, and stick to it. Do it!

Another cause of this necessary predictability is that team members have to be aware that everyone has to know when to be accessible and when to be inaccessible. Encourage digital disconnection and make sure no one wonders why someone had not responded to a message.

FOURTH.- Develop based on strengths, not weaknesses.

Just think about how performance appraisal normally works: Gaps between ideal and actual behaviors are identified, and feedback is given from time to time. Thanks to the feedback, the employee gets an idea of ​​where he is failing and then begins to think about making improvements. It’s true that feedback sometimes covers strengths, but none of us escapes negative bias, or fidgeting with negative information, thoughts, emotions, and experiences tend to leave a more lasting impression on us. But the truth is that we almost always improve faster in those areas where we are strong than in those where we are weak.

Do not turn your team into a school classroom where the requirement is set according to the students less willing to learn. Because the most talented will get bored and end up looking for another school that better meets their expectations.

FIFTH.- Share and rotate power

I know this sounds strange. Pronounced hierarchies have been linked to lower job satisfaction and motivation. Also with the reduction of loyalty and an increase in stress and anxiety. In a hybrid work environment this is accentuated. And it is costly and ineffective …

Not long ago I asked a person about the main difference between traditional work and the hybrid, distributed and project work we had created. And his answer was very illustrative: ‘Before I managed teams where all the components depended hierarchically on me. She attended meetings where everyone depended on who called them. Now, less than 20% of the people on my project teams hierarchically depend on me and I attend meetings where the person calling them is not my boss, nor the boss of most of those who attend. Before I did few things many times, now I do many things rarely. ‘ I couldn’t explain it better.

In a traditional workplace, teams are usually led by one person. But in a virtual environment, a centralized power structure is actually less effective. The power of high-trust teams actually changes between members depending on the stage of the project. Again it is a question of trust. Thus, you must assign responsibilities based on the specialty of the aspects to be managed, beyond the hierarchy. Don’t forget to allow decisions to be made at the lowest possible level and above all, don’t meddle. Remember that at the end of the day great leaders are not responsible for the work, they are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work.

Become Edward Teach.

Better known as Blackbeard. We generally associate pirates with violence, theft, and mayhem. Despite the legend, pirate ships during their golden age (17th century) managed their teams in surprising ways. They practiced a revolutionary form of democracy. To keep the ship running smoothly and discourage revolt, they elected their captain democratically. They limited their power and guaranteed crew members a voice in ship’s affairs. The captain and the crew voted on all relevant aspects, where to go, who to rob, the fate of the prisoners… With enough votes, the crew could demote or even fire the captain.

Any pirate could make complaints or proposals without fear of retaliation, as the crew members were protected by the ‘articles’ – a kind of constitution drawn up for each ship. These ‘articles’ were formed democratically and required unanimous agreement. Saving the distances, it is not that far from what we advise now for the management of remote teams.

Relax and enjoy.

Remember: you are no longer responsible for the work, now you are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work. That means that when everything is good you have to give all the prominence to your team, but when everything goes wrong you have to take full responsibility. Is not easy. The trick is to practice every moment, every day. Leadership is a skill like any other. If you practice it every day, you will be a strong leader. If you stop practicing it, you become a weak leader.