While many of the traits that define a good manager vary, depending on the organization, there are six personality traits universally found in the most successful leaders of remote teams.
They’re tireless
Managing remote teams often means managing across different time zones and may require working long days and oddball hours. This requires energy for long stretches. Here’s a quiz to see how suited you are to this type of work.
They’re company evangelist’s
Remote employees need to hear positive stories about brand messaging, company culture and organizational values, but feel-good messaging doesn’t always travel well across phone lines, videoconferencing and email. And when there are negative, gossipy stories about who did what to whom to compete against, communication gets even harder. The best leaders of remote teams are extra-positive, extra pro-values, extra pro-culture and extra pro-brand.
They’re encouraging
Remote employees encounter bumps in the road just like everyone else and they need a strong manager that keeps them solutions-focused with clear and positive messaging. The most successful set a positive precedent by welcoming challenges as exciting new opportunities that offer a chance to achieve something cool, interesting and innovative. Great pep talks don’t have to be complicated. Just let people know, “We hit a bump in the road, but that’s OK. We can overcome this. We’re going to work through it. We’re going to make it happen.”
They’re approachable
You don’t have to establish a full-time open-door policy to let remote employees know it’s safe to talk, but do set clear rules on how and when you want to be contacted and communicate them to your team. The best leaders engage remote employees in frequent and authentic conversation. They also skip questions like “How’s it going?” and instead dig for real information by asking direct questions including “What’s getting in your way?” “What roadblocks are you facing right now?” “What’s stopping you?” “What’s holding you back?” and “What’s frustrating you?”
They’re constructive
Positive reinforcement, a favored teaching tool of all great leaders, delivers specific feedback that says, “That thing you just did right now was really good.” This encourages employees to repeat the great performance you want to see more of. Here are four factors in providing positive reinforcement:
  1. Make it meaningful so there’s a true learning curve.
  2. Provide a clear picture of the specific performance that’s being commended so employees know how to repeat it.
  3. Catch employees in the act and provide the feedback then.
  4. Don’t cloud the positive message with criticism. There’s a place and a time for constructive criticism, but it isn’t when you’re delivering a positive message.

They’re good communicators

The best managers make remote interaction more like face-to-face by picking up the phone or using video conferencing. They also encourage frequent, two-way dialogue that invites employees to offer input, insights and opinions.
You may find you already naturally possess some of these characteristics, while others you will have to work to develop. Pick one to focus on and get started.