In today’s episode, we interview entrepreneur, leader, and CEO of Aquila Capital Partners, Mark E. Watson. Mark shares that the key to success for remote leaders is to understand the importance in clearly communicating the vision and having outcomes based conversations that progress towards relevant KPi’s.
Since we are not physically together, our conversations must be outcome based. On a remote team, leaders spend more time in the leadership role versus the management role. Just like Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said, “you lead people, you manage things,” successful remote leaders spend more time leading their remote teams towards their vision and mission.
The outdated management style that focuses on closely managing the activities of remote employees during the time on the clock can be detrimental to achieving success. When leaders shift to outcomes based conversations their team members gain more autonomy, feel more trusted, and produce better outcomes.
Communication with Remote Teams
Successful remote leaders are very strategic in their use of communication. A few years ago, leaders wanted everyone in the office because they wanted to make sure everyone was working. Working from the office gave an added level of security to leaders so they could ensure everything was running smoothly.
During the pandemic, when all teams were operating remotely, leaders lost that reassurance they once had in the office. The leaders that had a tendency to micromanage in the office shifted to virtual micromanagement.
For some companies, this led to a plethora of virtual micromanagement tactics that has hindered their success. Remote employees began to endure entire workdays in front of their Zoom cameras and – for some – every keystroke on their computers being tracked. What these companies did is apply outdated micromanagement tactics (meant for managing “things”) and applied them to people.
Successful Leaders Make Synchronous Time Valuable
At the beginning of the pandemic, leaders were having one hour Zoom meetings just to have one hour Zoom meetings. Employees were experiencing Zoom burnout on a whole new level. Because of this, leaders now need to focus on making synchronous meetings quick, valuable and to the point. Additionally, leaders and their remote teams need to leverage the right communication avenue for the right conversation, which at times can be hard to identify.
Virtual Meetings Need to Be Focused and Short
Successful remote leaders think about what is really going to move the needle on their goals when they are in a virtual meeting. Inside weekly standup meetings, each person on the team reviews what they’re working on. This is meant to keep everyone updated and not micromanage a team member’s every move. These short standups allow team members to understand how their work supports desired goals.
Keeping these discussions short, crisp, and to the point makes a real difference in valuing the time of your remote team members. In the office, these meetings used to take an hour but they only needed to take 20 min max. The same is true for your remote meetings. By focusing on relevant KPIs, outcomes and vision, successful remote leaders help their remote teams identify their goals, and then let the employees figure out how they are going to achieve those goals.
Remote leaders must shift their mindset and language in virtual meetings. Instead of asking, “what did we accomplish today?,” they should ask, “Are we on our timeline to achieve our goals?” Even a simple shift in asking a new question like this produces greater results with remote teams. Leaders then should leave all other work and less relevant conversations for asynchronous communication; for example, DM’s, emails, or phone calls.
Use a Phone Call When You Need To
Leaders and remote teams have gotten so used to technology that they have forgotten the value of a simple phone call. It was normal, just five or ten years ago, to just pick up the phone, call one another, and have a few minutes of conversation. Instead of typing out a complex email or DM back and forth, leaders can save time by picking up a phone and having a quick conversation. This works best for people who we are used to working with. Such impromptu phone calls can be the alternative for the hall chats of old.
Remote Team Communication
Video Calls: Video calls should be used during meetings when it’s important to see everyone’s faces and body language. If a meeting requires a longer amount of time, and there is going to be a lot of context, video calls are the best communication fit.
Email: Email is the best communication tool when you want to give out information during an asynchronous time, allowing recipients to respond as they go through their emails. Emails allow time to add greater context. For those who prefer verbal communication, they can create a video and embed it within the email.
Phone Call: Phone calls are the best communication tool when it comes to quick conversations that might require more context and information exchange than a Direct Message (DM). That said, phone calls are still asynchronous communication since they depend on availability of all parties.
Direct Message (DM): Direct messages make up a bulk of the communication that occurs on a remote team. DM’s are a good communication tool when there is something short and simple that needs to be communicated. Many remote teams utilize tools such as Slack, Asana or Basecamp.
Tips for Leaders
Mark’s final tips for leaders are to
- Focus remote team communication on outcome based projects.
- Instead of thinking about how people spend time, get comfortable communicating in an asynchronous fashion.
- Instead of always having to be together, slow down and be more purposeful.
- Make sure that you spend enough time clearly articulating where the company’s going, and why.
- In the world we live in today, it’s more important to lead than to manage.
About Mark E. Watson, III
Mark E. Watson, III has had an illustrious career, which spans three decades. He has built two public companies and took one from insolvent to $3 billion in revenue. He’s also credited with creating a new approach to specialty insurance and reinsurance.
Mark’s latest mission is to support the next generation of entrepreneurs building purpose-driven, innovative, technology-enabled companies.
He does this through Aquila Capital Partners, a proprietary capital investment fund he founded in 1998. Through Aquila, Mark and his team have invested in companies ranging from a fintech small consumer lending firm, to a conversational AI platform, to a physician-dispensed skin care line.
Residing in Texas, Mark writes regularly on topics including the future of work, small business recovery, sustainability for businesses, leadership and philanthropy.
Mark’s Website: https://markewatsoniii.com/
To learn more about remote team communication, download this episode today!