Just these two words together should raise the alarm bells! What good leader ever distances themselves from their followers? To lead people, we need to be visible, present and accessible. So even the idea of distance leadership feels uncomfortable when we look at the typical recommendations for physically present leaders.
So if you are now a remote manager or leader, what can you do to stay present in the minds of the troops?
Here are three simple ideas that can help you to reduce the distance, and increase the authority of your leadership.
1. Evaluate your presence as if you were a brand that needs marketing.
When distance leading, you need to step back and think about how you are being seen. This is rather like a marketeer planning the marketing strategy for a brand. Until you start to promote that brand, it is in effect invisible. You have to regularly and repeatedly present that brand to its target audience. It’s the only way it will grow and become significant.
As a distance leader you have to think the same way. How are you promoting yourself to your target audience? What are you doing on a monthly, weekly and daily basis that will keep you front of mind? Whats your route to market; how are you reaching out to your audience? What brand messaging do you want to portray?
Don’t leave it to change, it’s unlikely to happen if you do! Instead get detailed and plan out your strategies to be present when you are not physically there.
2. Schedule ‘touch time’.
Make use of your diary to schedule time with your people. This is not optional, it needs planning into your busy diary so that you make it happen. Look for a period every week when you will deliberately reach out to your team members, individually or collectively to have dialogue with them.
It might even be good to make this regular (like a good podcast that always publishes the same time every week). By using the same period each week, your people will start to look for it and value it.
3. Strengthen the clarity of your vision.
It’s hard enough making a vision stick when you are constantly present with your team. When leading from a distance this is going to become much harder. The trick here is to step up your clarity. Make the vision abundantly clear, all the time. Think in terms of a 10x or 100x improvement factor.
If you do nothing your vision will be diluted like a bucket of die in the Thames or Hudson rivers. People receive so much communication, tens of thousands of words in a quarter. You need to compete with that noise. You need to step up the communication of your vision to the extent that it is not washed out by the many other words your people will be receiving. It’s almost impossible to over communicate your vision when remote leading, don’t be afraid of repetition either. It’s one of those things that will help it to stick.