Early in my career, my team was small, and I was in HR leading other HR folks. We all spoke the same language, and everyone believed in leadership development.
Then a move out of HR to a team 50 times the size in a union environment. More tricky, but all in a few large call centers. I could physically model the leadership I was looking to grow.
Next to a sales role, with a team of 2000 spread out in 100 locations within a 9 hour radius. Still close enough to show up to support as needed, and to easily pull groups together for leadership development sessions.
Today I lead a team in 22 locations across 3 time zones supporting 7 companies. We need to develop leadership capabilities on our internal team and influence 10,000 leaders and followers. I have fantastic leaders at each level contributing to this mission. Leadership development is up to all of us. I could just delegate, but this is vital. How do I also personally touch as many leaders as possible?
The easiest way to build leadership in a large, remote team is to let them inside.
Easy Leadership Development
Many leaders overlook this vital approach. Teach leadership not only by modeling on the outside, but sharing the feelings, thoughts and struggles happening on the inside.
With a large, remote team, this requires even more trust and time. It’s worth it. I choose to…
1. Leverage social media
Sure I write for you. I’m also highly sensitive to my team. If there’s a message someone (usually someones) needs to hear, it’s in the blog. I can’t tell you how many notes I get from folks saying, “that one was about me, wasn’t it?” It usually isn’t, but if the shoe fits…
Sure, I could write using company tools, but then they’d miss the interaction of LGL community. Plus, by separating this as my personal blog, I preserve the right to be edgy. And I can contribute more broadly to you, them, and the rest of the world.
2. Speak deeply into the microphone
When my team is together, I leverage time to let them in my head. Sure we talk strategy and plans, but we go much deeper. I encourage challenging questions, and they know I will shoot straight. I start. They share too. We talk about:
- What scares us and why
- Weaknesses we’re working to develop
- Challenges we face
- What makes us angry
- Mistakes, regrets and failures
- Hopes and dreams
3. Real-time learning
We stop action to dissect teachable moments. I debrief my executive interactions and what I’m learning. I call them right back after conference calls to discuss their approach. We hold “virtual teambuilders” on topics we’re wrestling with… I’ll pose a simple question, such as “leaders stop learning when _____” And everyone responds to all via email. Amazing level-less leadership connection.
Oddly enough, I’ve received more feedback about personal and leadership growth from this large, remote team, than in any other role in my career. We’ve also experienced the important side effect of A players and other “crazies” lining up to join the team.
Why? We let one another into our heads.
How do you develop your team by letting them in your head?