The Challenges in Remote Leadership

Posted on May 2021 By Jack Bland
Leader Remotely

Leading a team is a challenging role. Leading a team remotely adds another layer of challenges into the mix.

At Speller, our new ‘normal’ consists of three days in the office and two days ‘Work From Home’ (WFH). However, when speaking to SAP job seekers and candidates in the market we’re noticing a very large shift in workforce expectations. A recent survey run by Speller indicates that around 70% of the SAP workforce now have the expectation of a WFH setup. With this in mind, I wanted to look at some of the issues that I have encountered as a leader with a remote team and changes that have needed to be made to allow this new arrangement to work successfully.

Identify significant changes

WFH has been the most significant change to Spellers daily operations since I started in the business. We were forced into up taking new technology and changing a number of back-end processes to make a remote work environment possible.

The majority of these have been for the better and have in fact streamlined the business however, there have been associated challenges as well and they include training, team motivation and team dynamic. As a leader it is important to have a period of reflection on how things have changed and what needs to be actioned. This will ensure that the team remains cohesive and working towards the same goal.

Video Conference

Platforms such as Skype and Teams have been fantastic in helping our business through the pandemic. However, whilst I am sure that some companies will adopt a completely remote model successfully, I personally feel that it isn’t the best approach for all companies.

At Speller we have always enjoyed a great team dynamic with a sociable and fun office. Although video conferences are effective, they don’t replace face-to-face interaction. Our consultants have found that returning to face-to-face meetings both internally and externally have had a positive effect for their company and employees. Whilst video conferencing has its place it shouldn’t always be used to replace in person meetings.

Trust is Key

If you would have said to me in January 2020 that by the end of the year you will be running a totally remote team, I would have fallen off my chair. Not only did we make that change but we were also able to recover from the initial recession and have a successful FY 20/21.

This has been down to how hard the team has worked and coped with all the changes this year. Looking back, I shouldn’t have been worried as the team is talented, motivated and trustworthy which are the key drivers for success. If you are confident in your team’s talent and trusting of their abilities, then there are very few reasons why a remote or flexible model can’t be successful in the long run.

Training has been difficult

As a manager you rely on hearing, observing and analysing how your team is tracking within the office. This allows you to see where training or support may be required. In a remote model this is more difficult as you are distant from what people are doing on a day-to-day basis.

With an experienced team such as Speller, this is not as big an issue as it may be with an inexperienced team. New team members or inexperienced staff can feel isolated in a remote situation and may not always receive the help, training and information they need to complete their job to the highest standard. Issues such as onboarding new staff in a remote environment need to be managed carefully to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The outcome?

The last year was a testing time for most, however I do feel that the shift in the workforce dynamic is a positive one. It has allowed more flexibility and a better work life balance. I was speaking to a friend the other day who was planning with confidence to travel around Australia and work remotely. This was a very difficult prospect for most people to achieve a year ago but now it is a realistic possibility for a lot of people.

As a leader, embrace this change, allow flexibility where it makes sense, and it will allow your team to thrive!

Are you a leader with a remote team? Tell us what the biggest challenges are for you. Feel free to comment on our LinkedIn page where you can find SAP updates, new SAP roles and information about the Speller team.