5 bad leadership habits to avoid when managing a team remotely

Don't let certain behaviours slip into your leadership style unchecked, says CEO of Authentic Change Solutions.

Talita Ferreira is CEO and founder of Authentic Change Solutions

We all mess up at some stage in our lives. We might be under the pressure of mastering a specific challenge or meeting a deadline, and some of our unregulated behaviours uncontrollably start to surface. If you are a manager or a leader, that feeling of messing up might be especially familiar.

Here are five bad leadership habits to avoid and manage better.

1. Forgetting to manage ourselves

You might recall from being on aeroplanes that the safety brief is to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

If we don't understand where we are in a crisis and what we are feeling, it will be tough to lead ourselves or others to something different.

We might be feeling pressure from dealing with crisis planning and scenario analysis or the prognosis of the business for the future.

Identify and acknowledge where you are and what you are feeling. Is it frustration, fear or anxiety? Accept this without judgement. Set an intention to move to a more positive place and exercise choice in doing so.

Think about what you would rather be thinking and feeling, open up your mind to the possibility that this could be an opportunity and explore what positive alternatives could emerge.

We will need to bounce back as individuals, organisations and teams. By focusing on ourselves first, we will be in a better position to assist our teams.

2. Thinking we don't have any time for bonding the team and small talk

It’s so easy to get stuck in the doing-mode and focus all the critical things that need attention, for example communication to stakeholders, envisioning the new business landscape and cashflow forecasts.

It is just as critical to focus on leading and motivating the team and its culture virtually as it is on managing the crisis. Individual team members need to feel that they are considered, heard and have a voice.

Try to consider what each person in the team might be feeling and spend a moment in their shoes. Which fears might they have about the future or what difficulties are they facing at home?

By sharing your vulnerabilities as a leader, you can create psychological safety for the team and unlock a new level of connection and sharing.

Set aside time for virtual team engagement activities. These go beyond the lunch or coffee interactions where non-work related topics are discussed virtually.

The conversations must focus on how the team dynamics are developing. For instance, are more siloed behaviours starting to emerge or are old blaming practices the norm? Spend time on the behaviours you would like to see – empathy for others, support and prioritisation, even go as far as defining new rules of virtual engagement for the team.

Ask powerful questions and engage everyone in the answers, drawing out the more quiet voices. Virtual is here to stay, and there is no time like the present to hone virtual leadership to a deeper level.

3. Expecting that we should have all the answers

Often we want to have all the answers before we engage and communicate. It stems from not wanting to be wrong or looking stupid. These times are strange and certainty might be a long way off. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" when communicating.

There are so many tricky communication scenarios ahead of us, who knows what the business landscape will look like or if some of our organisations might survive the long-term recession challenges.

Consider sharing possible outcomes. Focus on facts and certainty and also openly share what you don't know. Be as transparent as possible. The grapevine always has information before official communication channels are engaged. Nothing is more disturbing than knowing something is going on and leaders are not sharing. At least provide a date for the next update when you are unable to communicate.

A parking lot can be a handy tool for uncertain topics. Make a list of the items with too many variable outcomes, and 'park' them to a date in the future. Too much speculation leads to fear and a lack of trust.

Sometimes it is best to caveat issues with "this is my personal opinion" and perhaps "not for further discussion". Trusting our teams in these circumstances is crucial. Always communicate with empathy, consider how other individuals might be feeling and stay true to yourself.

4. Suffering from too much negativity

Sometimes it takes more effort to focus on positive outcomes, and we easily slip into negativity and spiralling down to low levels. As leaders, we are a contagion for others and how we show up impacts our teams.

When we repeatedly talk about negative situations, we can feed a dark mood. We can solve this by being more intentional with our energy, noticing as soon as this happens and actively choosing something different. Instead, think about a beautiful life moment and activate all the related emotions.

We all know those people that sap our energy and manage to help us focus on negativity. Rather surround yourself with energy angels. Seek them out for a virtual coffee or a catch-up and spend time on affirming positive vibes. Focus on how you are feeling and showing up.

5. Forgetting to say thank you

Brain science points to appreciation as a critical motivator across generational boundaries. When considering the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) statistic that the number one reason for a person leaving a job is their manager, this all starts to make sense.

Appreciation and the strength of individual relationships lead to more engaged teams and ultimately organisational success. So, forgetting to say thank you virtually is considered to be an epic fail.

Spend time on evaluating how you appreciate your people. How do you thank them? Do you use generic phrases like – a job well done, or do you thank them for their positive attributes and character? Do you do it in front of the team or one to one?

Some people actually hate generic praise and or being recognised in front of other people. Finding out what motivates each individual team member is a great place to start. Comments like 'thank you for showing up and supporting me today' might be preferred to generic praise. Get to know your team better and understand what will bring out the best in them.

In conclusion, it would be so easy to get caught up in the hype of the crisis, getting things done, forgetting to 'lead' virtually and reverting to old behaviours that cause real harm to long term relationships.

Let's be vigilant and stay focused on some of the elements that matter most for virtual engagement.

This article was written by Talita Ferreira at Authentic Change Solutions. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of C&IT Magazine.

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