The Best Leadership Skills for Managing Remote Teams in 2022

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer

The workplace disruption brought on by the pandemic has been so significant that some have dubbed it “New Industrial Revolution.” In the past, new machinery and rigid working schedules marked the 19th century. Currently, the past 18 months have brought into focus remote and hybrid work, changing workplaces and career priorities and flexible working schedules. Remote work has become so important that 64% of employees report that they’re prepared to leave or stay with a job based on whether they can work remotely. 

This has prompted great discussion around how businesses operate and how to improve leadership skills in senior management. The leadership skills for managers at all levels have become particularly important as business leaders. Many for the first time, have to manage, inspire and oversee employees from a distance. 

Many employees say they’re likely to leave their job in the next 3-6 months, and that rate of employee turnover will likely cost U.S. businesses more than a trillion dollars annually. So, looking at the management skills business leaders need in order to retain and inspire its talent can have a real impact on the business’ bottom line.

Here we’ll explore the best leadership skills for 2022. We will also mention how to manage remote employees in a way that helps your workforce and business thrive.

Empathy & Emotional Intelligence

The uncertainty and isolation which came with the pandemic has caused a rapid increase in mental health issues. In fact, over 41% of employees have reported a decline in their mental health since the Covid-19 outbreak, with unemployed and newly remote workers being the most affected. 

This can often translate into added stress and anxiety at work, often having a direct impact on overall employee performance. Yes, mental health issues should always be discussed with mental health professionals. However, managers and business leaders can ease some of the strain by being attuned to what their employees are going through and offering additional support. Therefore, emotional intelligence is on the list of leadership skills that managers must begin to adopt.

Research shows that empathetic leadership can have a direct impact on employee engagement. Seventy six percent of employees with highly empathetic senior leaders report being often or always engaged. On the other hand, only 32% of those with less empathetic leaders report the opposite. Empathy can also have a direct impact on innovation, retention and workplace inclusivity. These factors make it an all-round key management skill for the leaders of the future.

In this context, empathy goes beyond asking your employees how they’re doing. It’s more about providing your employees with a work environment that matches their needs. You can do this by

  • Demonstrating sincere interest in their feelings and aspirations
  • Watching out for any signs of stress or burnout
  • Offering ongoing support
  • Giving employees one Friday off per month
  • Allowing employees to work 4 instead of 5 days a week

Doing any of these can further help your employees feel more valued and understood.

Employee Performance Management

Employee performance management has never been more important for business success. Remote work has completely transformed the way employees are managed and assessed. Now, more than ever, businesses rely so heavily on the performance of each and every employee to overcome unprecedented challenges. So being able to manage employees from a distance will become one of the top leadership skills to have in 2022.

Effective performance management is an important factor when it comes to employee productivity, sense of belonging and the overall company culture. General Electric is a good example of how a shift from a traditional ranking model to one focused on developing and inspiring employees can transform a business and its overall performance.  

In the new world of work, good performance management relies on both clear metrics and frequent, open communication between managers and employees. Think of setting achievable yet ambitious targets. Metrics that are clearly aligned with the business strategy can go a long way in encouraging higher performance in employees. 

For managers, this means going beyond the planned performance reviews and setting clear short-term goals followed by regular check-ins. Ongoing and constructive feedback can also help your employees improve along the way, which can prevent smaller problems from growing into larger issues. In this context, focusing on the problem rather than the employee is really important to encourage behavioral change. 

Purpose-Driven Leadership

Seventy percent of employees in the U.S. have said that they derive their sense of purpose from their work. Fifty percent say that they’ve reconsidered the type of work they do because of the pandemic. This puts purpose and fulfillment right at the center of employee management. It shows to be a major driver of employee retention, productivity and engagement. 

Businesses have long acknowledged the importance of purpose in their work and how employees perceive them as an employer. For example, in 2014, CVS Health made the decision to stop selling tobacco products. CVS’s management decided that these actions did not fit with their mission to help people improve their health. 

Within remote work, employees often report feelings of isolation and disengagement from their workplace. So, purpose-driven leadership is that much more important in the world of remote work. Ultimately, it is up to the manager to promote the company’s purpose and understand the individual drivers of each employee. This will help encourage their best performance.

One way to do this is to exemplify the company values and overall purpose in your day-to-day interactions with your employees. If the company’s purpose is to “build a greener future”, you can showcase this by prioritizing energy-efficient ways of working. Likewise, if one of the company values is transparency, you can focus on open and transparent communication. 

Coaching & Mentoring

As more employees opt for fully remote or hybrid working arrangements, there are concerns that employees can be bypassed for promotions. This is due to reduced face time and relationship-building between employees and their managers. As flexible working arrangements become the norm, managers have to become proactive in reassuring their employees about their career progression. One way they’ve done that is by offering coaching and mentoring where needed. 

Luckily, coaching is already recognized as a leadership skill managers need. In the 2020 ICF Global Coaching Survey, over 74% of managers reported they plan on enrolling in additional coach-specific training in the following 12 months.   

This can have a positive impact on employees loyalty and job satisfaction. We can see an example of this in Sun Microsystems. Within this company, mentored employees were five times more likely to advance in their pay grade. They were also 22% more likely to stay at their company.

Through coaching, you can work with your staff to help them identify where they want to go professionally and what skills they need. Once this is done, you can serve as a mentor to help them with advice, training and support so they can achieve their goals. Depending on your company’s budget, you can implement this process as an additional training or organize one-to-ones with individual employees addressing specific skill sets.

Be Agile

The last 18 months had a lasting impact on the way businesses operate. The changes pushed many businesses to change their processes, tools and direction in order to survive. As of December 2020, 25% of SMBs in the U.S. closed their doors due to lockdowns, financial challenges and decreased demand. 

Moving forward, businesses have to become incredibly agile and accustomed to change in order to survive such major shifts. Take for instance the Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan. Their in-store sales dropped by 90%, as many stores had to close due to the pandemic. The business was swift to respond by turning its in-store beauty advisers to online influencers. Moving the in-store experience to the digital world helped the business recover its losses and pave the way to a new customer engagement strategy.

In order to get your employees comfortable with change, make them part of the process. By using polls, open team discussions and one-to-ones, you can discuss upcoming changes and ask for their feedback. 

Likewise, communicate these upcoming changes upfront. In addition, you should emphasize the value they bring both to the business and to your employees’ day-to-day work. For instance, if the company is moving from Slack to Microsoft Teams, don’t just communicate the steps employees need to take to make the transition. Be sure to also include how using Teams will benefit them directly. You can highlight some of the additional apps they can use or different ways they can collaborate within the tool.

We Grow Together

The modern workplace is changing and so are the needs and expectations of employees. Remote and hybrid work are becoming the new “normal”. Meanwhile, economic uncertainty and market disruptions are forcing companies to quickly adapt and remain agile.

To be ready for these changes, business leaders need to adapt how they manage their employees and the ways they involve employees in decision-making. By investing in management skills such as leading with empathy, coaching and change leadership, managers will be better prepared to respond to these changing needs and empower its workforce to innovate and grow alongside the business.

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