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Remote leadership – connecting, listening, responding

We started our Remote Leadership series by looking at how we prioritise our own well-being. Still with a focus on ourselves as managers, we then moved onto thinking about leadership styles and how we might flex those to support our teams. 

In this post, we will shift the emphasis onto how we can look after our remote teams, adapting some of the same self-care principles and exploring how our managerial capabilities can be best utilised to make sure our team members feel cared for and supported. 

Staying connected with your team 

How are we staying connected with our remote teams? Here are some ideas that we’ve heard, and in many cases, tried over the last few weeks.  

  • Ask your team members what they need – this is fundamental to building trust and connectivity (learn more about that here) 
  • Use the power of coaching – now is the time to put that tried-and-tested GROW model into practice 
  • Hold regular video calls with your teams – there are pros and cons of this, but as long as you are in tune with what is helpful for your team members, it can be a powerful connector 
  • Company-wide wellness challenge – this is a great idea to get teams to encourage each other and hold one another accountable for sustaining well-being initiatives 
  • Implement / update employee recognition programme – the current situation is prompting many managers and leaders to re-think which recognition initiatives are most meaningful 
  • Checkin survey or polls – use Zoom or Teams polls to check in during team meetings 
  • Provide some light-hearted relief from the day-to-day challenges – ideas include themed quizzes, virtual lunches, virtual meet & greets (you might also get inspiration from Corndel’s Chat in a Hat and Pets Online!) 
  • Communication is key

Listening to your team – 5 techniques

Pay attention. Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. 

 

Show you are listening. Use your own body language and gestures to show that you are engaged. 

 

Give feedback. Understanding what is being said by paraphrasing, for example; ”It sounds like you are saying”, ”what do you mean when you say”, ”What I’m hearing is”. 

 

Defer judgement. Allow the speaker to finish and don’t interrupt. 

 

Respond appropriately. Be candid, open and honest in your response. Assert your opinions respectfully. 

 

Be mindful that you are likely to be better and some of these techniques than others. 

  • Does your effectiveness depend on the situation/circumstances? 
  • What gets in the way?
  • What helps you to listen better? 

Exercise: To what extent are you really listening? 

There are different depths of ‘listening’. Below is an exercise to try with your teams. 

Level 1 listeners may hear the other person, but their attention is on their own opinions, stories, judgmentsOutwardly they are nodding, and muttering ‘uh huh’. Inside they are thinking: OMG, I had a feeling just like that, am I picking up the kids today? I’m terrified I’ll say the wrong thing and look stupid. 

Role play exercise: One person tells another about their most recent holiday, giving lots of details. The other person just sits there; and the facilitator plays their inner voice – “I am totally going there on my next holiday, why would you go there, do you need a visa to go there, I can’t IMAGINE going somewhere like that …” – saying this aloud as the one person is telling the other about the trip. 

When might you encounter level 1 listening? When in a 1:1 with a person in need, direct report, a stakeholder – THEY should be in level 1 as it’s all about them. 

Level 2 listening is all about focus. It’s one directional. For example, a parent with sick child can be oblivious to the world around them, listening intently to every word and nuance in the conversation; in the zone. 

This is where self-management comes in. You’ll dip into level 1 and you’ll need to recover to put your attention on the other person; it doesn’t matter what you think. You listen first.  

Role play exercise: Pair up, with one of you picking a topic. It could be anything – details of your first born, your first date, how you trained for a race, your thoughts on getting a dog. You are in level 1. The other person will be in level 2 – listening with LASER focus, all attention on the other person, don’t listen to your inner voice, just listen. There’s no response, there’s nothing to say, don’t chime in. 

Level 3 listening is a soft focus that takes in everything, including being aware of the energy between you and others. You’re also aware of how that energy is changing – you detect sadness when it’s not being said, you can spot shifts in attitude, you are aware of the environment and whatever is going on around you. You are conscious of the underlying mood or the impact of the conversationAn example of this is when standup comedians get a sense of the energy building or dissipating. Level 3 listeners pick up as much information as possible 

Where would this come up for you? 

Exercise: Think of a time where your gut told you something. What did you do? How did you change on the spot? 

Responding to your team’s needs

Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business Transforming Lives by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth explains this well 

The following five coaching skills are some of the more appropriate responses when listening to someone – to help a staff member get really in tune with what s/he needs or is asking for; it cuts out assumptions and gets to the heart of the matter. 

Articulate: This is about just drawing someone’s attention to what you’re hearing without judging it. For example, you may notice a certain phrase or theme repeating itself when they are talking with you so you may choose to draw attention to this with the goal of helping someone with their own thinking. I had a client who repeated a certain phrase several times over the course of a few meetings with me, so I said, “I’ve noticed that you’ve used that phrase quite a few times when we’ve been speaking.” This approach can allow someone to gain clarity for themselves or discover something they hadn’t released.  

ClarityIt’s important to make sure that you have understood the other person and really get their world. You are trying to get to the point where they feel you completely understand their perspective and you’re clear on the situation. For example, “What I think I’m hearing is…” or “So, I think you’re saying <X>, is that a fair summary?” As well as building rapport and understanding, this gives them the chance to gain clarity for themselves about the situation.  

Meta-viewLifting people up from the finer details of something and asking bigger picture questions to help them think about what matters and find solutions can be a powerful tool. For example, “What about this matters to you?” or “What are we really trying to solve here?” 

MetaphorUsing analogy and metaphor is a great way to build connection and a shared understanding. They can be useful to come back to, for example, using the idea of being the bus driver rather than a passenger for a leader who was struggling to make the transition to managing rather than delivering. It gives a point of reference to return to in future conversations, e.g. “Is that task the bus driver’s responsibility?” 

Acknowledge: This helps people to feel valued and recognises their strengths. It is really important when people have stepped outside their comfort zone or showed vulnerability, in admitting how they feel.