Leading from a distance requires creative use of meeting prioritization, battle rhythm, and Commander's Intent.
My leadership style depends on regular contact with my people.I rely on face to face meetings to gauge reactions to our plan, evaluate execution, and make needed adjustments. Since my team has always been geographically disbursed, I try to pack a lot of “face time” into the limited opportunities we’ve had to meet in person or via video conference. The good news about this experience is that I’ve been forced to use a variety of tools over the years to lead my team, and keep us connected.
Recent events highlight the need to lead from a distance.It’s not a question of whether we like it or not, but more a fact that it is up to leaders to adapt to our “new abnormal.” As someone who simply cannot sit still in an office all day, I’ve used a few time tested tools and techniques to help.
The first is to critically evaluate your business to determine which events require face to face meetings into “must have,” “should have,” and “nice to have.”The “nice to haves” get cut, the “should haves” get lumped into one event, leaving the most time for the “must haves.” If you go through this exercise you may be surprised at how many meetings you can get rid of, and your team will thank you for it.
A second technique is to establish a “battle rhythm,” which is nothing more than setting specific dates, times, and durations for meetings. Whether via video conference or in person, letting your team know when we will get together allows them to effectively plan the rest of their work, and helps ensure maximum participation in your “must have” meetings.
The third tool stems from the reality that leading from a distance gives your team space to maneuver and operate.In Joint Force Leadership: How SEALs and Fighter Pilots Lead to Success, we identified Commander’s Intent as a key leadership and communication tool.In sum, Commander’s Intent defines what the desired end state looks like not how to get there. Leading from afar limits your time together, so whenever my team gathers I infuse the discussion with my Commander’s Intent to keep us focused, and headed toward a purpose worthy of our time and efforts.
Leading from a distance is nothing new for some, but we can all get better at helping our teams navigate the challenges that stem from limited face to face contact.Your job to lead may not be easier from a distance, but your ability to adapt will pay big dividends for both you and your team.
Ready to take your leadership to the next level? Sign up below to get our free essential elements of leadership guide and get started on your leadership journey: