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How to go about skill development for remote leaders

Remote work has transformed overnight from a job perk to a (seemingly) permanent necessity. We can’t even predict how the business world will look a few months from now. However, what's certain is that digital transformation got a huge boost and will not be reversed.

As a result, it is important to develop good digital training and skills development strategies for remote workers and prepare for the near future. This way, a business will not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity.

Last time we explored a few skills that remote employees should master in this relatively new working environment. Employees aren't alone, as the leaders moved there too. And leaders have their own challenges to overcome in virtual settings. L&D professionals need to do their best to provide the support leaders need.

Read more: Characteristics of a successful virtual leader of an invisible team

How to go about skill development for remote leaders

Leading a virtual team comes with its own set of challenges, so leaders need training and support to develop the skills to navigate everything. Here are a few that should be included in any leadership development program:

  1. Define the right team roles

    When face-to-face interactions are no longer the default, it’s crucial for remote leaders to clearly define team roles and manage relationship dynamics. Team leaders can still mediate plenty of issues, even remotely.

  2. Focus on goals instead of hours worked

    Since many people share their working space with other people, it may be impossible for them to keep a 9 to 5 work schedule. That’s why virtual team leaders need to focus more on goals instead of seat time. It's more productive to come up with strategies to achieve a balance between time and results.

    Read more: How to avoid work from home burnout: A room of one’s own

  3. Facilitate virtual meetings

    It's up to team leaders to take on the responsibility of facilitating virtual meetings. There needs to be a regular meeting schedule, define the rules for impromptu meetings, establish individual one-on-ones or group brainstorming sessions. Leaders also set the communication guidelines and channels for various types of meetings.

  4. Build a better team dynamic

    People react differently to virtual environments. Some feel great, while others are uncomfortable with participating in Zoom meetings all day. Other team members have a hard time differentiating between work and leisure time. Therefore, leaders should build a better dynamic by balancing employees' hyperactive and passive online behaviors. For example, calling them in the evenings can be counterproductive and sets a bad example.

  5. Deliver feedback efficiently

    Feedback is as important as instruction or working time. It’s essential for team leaders to deliver frequent and specific feedback to remote employees, adapted to each individual. There are also many options for delivery: online chats, audio recordings, or even videos.

  6. Improve soft skills

    While technology does wonders for efficiency and productivity, it also takes a toll on people's mental state. For teams to continue functioning well as units, leaders must learn how to better support and improve soft skills, such as empathy, agility, or resilience.

    Read more: Agility – the superpower of the modern employeeM

  7. Onboarding remote employees

    Virtual leaders need to adapt to the realities of onboarding new employees remotely. For example, they should receive training on how to set onboarding goals for remote teams. It's also useful to know how to delegate tasks to new team members and set up communication channels.

    Read more: 7 Best practices to onboard remote employees in 2020

  8. Build a culture of remote work

    Finally, the endeavor of building a culture of remote work falls on a leader’s shoulders. Cultural change is a lengthy and complex process, but virtual team leaders will eventually achieve it th the right attitude, vision, and support.

    Read more: How to ensure the long-term success of your remote team

Wrapping up

Designing training modules for remote workers to keep their skills polished and develop new competencies comes with no textbook rules. Every organization is different, every learner is different, and L&D professionals need to balance many details when creating online courses that meet the needs of today’s remote workforce, including leaders.

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