112-Building Team Expectations as a Distance Leader

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This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0112, we’re talking about building appropriate team and employee expectations as a distance leader. Here are some of our guiding questions:
  • How can a distance leader communicate expectations?
  • How can a distance leader focus on positive, self-reinforcing interactions?
  • What steps can a leader take to set effective expectations?
    • Intentional communications and check-ins – the richer the media, the better
      • Regular meetings
      • Regular one-on-one meetings
      • More than status – periodic “compass checks” that help establish purpose
      • Using models or examplars to share ideas
    • Discussions about expectations
      • Work-life balance. Demonstrating what is expected is important, but so is treating work like a part of life, not the only focus a team member has
      • Productivity. Clearly defining productivity goals for individuals and for teams helps, but don’t go too far. It may set a low boundary on work efforts.
      • Review and promotion expectations. Have both public and private conversations about this. Do your best to demystify strategies for promotion so employees feel comfortable talking to you about opportunities. When someone chooses another job, realize that everyone is watching your responses, so endeavor to be gracious and supportive.
      • Guidelines about contacting leader for support (example: missing a meeting). Sometimes, you need to contact your boss directly, so make sure you set the expectations clearly around how to contact and when to contact.
      • Provide shared experiences of working through problems. This approach is kind of like a “teaching moment” to reinforce what you might do in a particular situation. You can also ask others on the team to identify problems and how they should be solved, and then discuss the resolution as a team.
      • Meet with team members individually to discuss comfort levels in their roles and clarify any questions.
      • Focus some time in regular group meetings to address questions and issues.
  • Discussions about workplace. These can be very difficult conversations, especially with an unhappy employee or team.
    • Focus on team goals or business goals. The purpose of the team should be clear, and be the core of the conversation.
    • If client meetings are part of the mix, then define expectations around what a successful client interaction looks/feels like.
    • Try to assess and connect others in the company to the remote employee, using mentorship programs, training programs, or even book studies.
  • Positive vs. negative interactions
    • Foster intra-team communications. Having employees speak with one another is the first step to solving problems before they grow and require your interaction.
    • Give adequate warning for points to assess (back to expectations). In other words, actually defining the things where you should be involved as a leader really helps your team members know when you should be contacted.
    • Discuss work queue and subjective and objective performance. If you have multiple people with similar roles, then defining performance expectations is part of your leadership responsibility. By admitting that there are different approaches for different people and unique situations helps you define your leadership style and effectively be fairer to the whole team if you want to be.
    • The more challenging the discussion, the richer the media needs to be. Model effective video conferencing, phone calls, and emails.
    • Build a mentor-buddy system in the organization to avoid isolationism. This helps provide internal leadership roles as well as support newer or more distant employees.
Don’t forget to check out the Distance Leader blog and leadership resources at DistanceLeader.com! You can also connect with us via email at distanceleader@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @Distance_Leader. We look forward to hearing from you! Media credit: Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash