Leadership development used to be easier. 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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I was a sales executive in the IT industry for over 20 years before becoming an executive and career coach.
During many of those years, I worked remotely.
Sometimes in an office. Most of the time out of my home.
There were very few leaders who knew how to connect with me.
Those that did a good job of leading and connecting did it on a consistent basis. Several times a week vs. once a month, once a quarter, or calling me to ask about an important “deal.”
Real leaders connect.
Steve, you raise an important point here. Frequency of connection matters.
Another thought provoking post – thank you! As the size and/or remoteness of my teams have increased over the years, truly impactful leadership has become more of a challenge. But regardless, it remains as important as ever. We cannot suffer from an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective. This post is a great reminder of that!
Greg, thanks so much. Great to have your contribution. Scaling leadership development, so vital. What has worked best for you?
I lead a small organization: 10 employees. I find that the best way to take the pulse is still personal face time. I walk the office often, trying not to be intrusive, but just checking, ‘how’s it going?’ I am comfortable with email, but there’s insufficient nuance and no tone of voice in writing. I find some staff resist that defaulting to written communication,
Bill, YES! That’s the ideal.
Karin- you remind me of a small shop that grew into a huge supermarket. In a small shop, the owner knows the clients and their needs. He establishes cordial relationship with them. As the team grows, the owner and staff get involved more into vacation regulations, incentive schemes for the employees, sick leaves regulations, punishment rules and so on. These are all internal activities that do not benefit the customer.
A leader is able to scale up his services to the clients so that he/she doesn’t alienate them. Human bondages are central to a great leader, including those of followers and clients.
Ali, That’s a great analogy. Thanks as always for your comments.
This one was about me, right Karin 🙂
Seriously, I really enjoyed this post today because it validated something I believe in. I too have let my employees inside through my personal blog and social media avenues. Like Steve, I work as a leadership and career coach, but I also work as a VP for my company leading a remote team across several states. Rather than keep the two separated, I think it is very important for leaders to live their lives transparent and I want my team to benefit from what I am sharing outside of normal business hours.
Bill, wow! We should talk 😉
I like the way you tell by vibrant focused leadership stories. Keep it up. You are inspiring!
Steve, Thanks for your inspiration.Namaste.
Once again a great post! These are fantastic points. I agree with Steve, real leaders connect and care about other employees.
Sam, Great to have you joining the conversation. Looking forward to connecting with you more.
Karin, you always nail these topics in such an inviting way, that gets us all thinking! Letting people into our heads is such a wonderful metaphor, as it signifies to me the importance of not withholding information or feelings. I love your questions, especially-what scares us and why? I also like to ask: What makes us jump out of bed in the morning? The answer to that can oftentimes steer us onto the path we need to follow as leaders. Thanks!
Terri, yes! I call what you describe, “skipping to work.”