13 Essential Lessons for Leaders From the Remote-Work Era

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council share the most important lessons they’ve learned about leading from afar.
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
May 20, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
May 20, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021
remote-work-leader
Top row, from left: Lindsay Tanne, Syed Balkhi, Chris Christoff. Second row, from left: Blair Williams, Stephanie Wells, Samuel Thimothy, Colin McGuire. Third row, from left: John Brackett, Jared Atchison, John Turner. Bottom row, from left: Josh Kohlbach, Thomas Griffin, Shu Saito.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world’s foundations in all aspects. Countless companies have had to change their business models and switch to remote work to keep their employees safe. But after more than a year of this virtual work environment, leaders have learned valuable lessons on how to lead — and how not to lead — when their teams arent all in one location.

The members of Young Entrepreneur Council know the challenges of pivoting their leadership style in the current climate. Below, 13 of them shared the lessons that have taught them how to be better leaders in this new remote work era.

13 Essential Lessons for Leaders From the Remote-Work Era

  1. Trust Your Team
  2. Actively Support Socialization
  3. Create a Comprehensive Onboarding Program
  4. Give People the Tools They Need To Be Successful
  5. Track Your Business Progress
  6. Invest in Your Culture
  7. Have Well-Defined Standard Operating Procedures
  8. Hold Monthly Meetings To Get Everyone on the Same Page
  9. Set Clear, Attainable Objectives
  10. Understand That Passionate Employees Don’t Need to Be Micromanaged
  11. Ensure Employees Know When and How To Communicate With Teammates
  12. Be Flexible With Work Schedules, but Create Overlap
  13. Focus on Empathy and Action

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1. TRUST YOUR TEAM

In this remote-work year, when many team members were juggling professional and personal responsibilities, I found that giving people the freedom to identify when and how they worked effectively was essential. This requires, of course, a shared sense of purpose and commitment, so communicating clearly and consistently with team members around goals and expectations is a must. — Lindsay Tanne, LogicPrep

2. ACTIVELY SUPPORT SOCIALIZATION

A major lesson Ive learned is that you need to actively support socialization and non-work-related interactions among employees. Just providing people with the tools to do their job isn’t enough. They also need to connect with others. We have fun meetings, Q&As on Slack and other similar strategies help us to connect with each other on a more personal level. This also creates a fun place to work. — Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. CREATE A COMPREHENSIVE ONBOARDING PROGRAM

Over the past year, I’ve learned the importance of creating a comprehensive onboarding program. We realized that hiring more remote workers would mean more training. Instead of pulling one of our veteran employees away for days at a time to train, we developed thorough onboarding documentation to streamline the learning process for new hires. — Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

4. GIVE PEOPLE THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL

One important lesson that many leaders have learned is that people dont need to have someone looking over their shoulder to get things done. Whats important is that you set goals and give people the tools they need to be successful. Youll have to go through some trial and error to make things work, but people are adaptable, and youll be able to figure out the right way to work in your company. — Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. TRACK YOUR BUSINESS PROGRESS

For leaders working remotely, tracking your business’s progress and employees to ensure everyone is doing well with their workload and expectations is crucial. You can do this using KPIs and a measurement system you check on weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. — Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

6. INVEST IN YOUR CULTURE

Culture is by far the most important aspect of running a long-term business. Is sales important? Yes. What about talent? Yes. But all these factors need to gel to create high-performance organizations that last longer than most. The pandemic revealed cracks in the cultures of many businesses, which got me thinking and acting along these lines. Its culture, then trust and, finally, execution. — Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS

7. HAVE WELL-DEFINED STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES

The most important aspect of remote teamwork is the ability to work together efficiently and with minimal friction. Friction creates frustration. The key to easing this problem is to make sure that your standard operating procedures (SOPs) and workflows are well-defined. Lead by example so your team will follow using project management software and file management guidelines to streamline productivity. — Colin McGuire, Boomn

8. HOLD MONTHLY MEETINGS TO GET EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE

I learned early on that having monthly meetings is pivotal to our success. When your team works worldwide, you have to bring people together to touch base on projects, updates and company news. We all meet up for one hour every third week of the month. During this time, all of our departments are able to realign their focus and figure out what needs to happen next. — John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

9. SET CLEAR, ATTAINABLE OBJECTIVES

To be a great leader from afar, set clear, attainable objectives for your team that they can easily follow and maintain. Without proper direction, people on your team will feel lost and unsure about what their role entails and what duties they need to fulfill. Setting clear objectives makes it easy for everyone to fulfill their tasks and accomplish their to-do list. — Jared Atchison, WPForms

10. UNDERSTAND THAT PASSIONATE EMPLOYEES DON'T NEED MICROMANAGEMENT

Ive learned that passionate employees do not need to be micromanaged. When we hire new team members, we establish quarterly goals that they are expected to meet. If their numbers are where they should be every week, they are good to go. I found that using time-tracking software and daily check-ins for our remote employees hurt more than it helped. — John Turner, SeedProd LLC

11. ENSURE EMPLOYEES KNOW WHEN AND HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH TEAMMATES

Communication is key. It’s OK to over-communicate, but it’s not OK to not communicate at all. So, make sure your employees know when and how to communicate with their teammates. This exchange can either be through email, phone calls, Slack channels or any other communication tool that you’re using. — Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

12. BE FLEXIBLE WITH WORK SCHEDULES, BUT CREATE OVERLAP

When you work remotely, you dont get to meet your team too often. Also, you may work from different time zones. It’s OK to be flexible with your working hours, but you have to make sure everyone overlaps for a few hours of the day. Use this time to conduct your meetings, collaborate on projects or communicate with each other. This will help maintain the team spirit despite not meeting with them formally for months. — Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

13. FOCUS ON EMPATHY AND ACTION

With the increase in remote work, leaders must demonstrate they understand their employees’ struggles. Leaders need to be aware that employees could be struggling with kids at home or with feelings of isolation. Empathy alone is not enough, though! Leaders also need to take action. Specifically, employers can set up counseling or provide helpful technology, such as headphones. — Shu Saito, All Filters

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