When training ignores the need for leadership skills specific to remote and hybrid teams, you still have another option.
The tension between on-site work and hybrid or remote work continues between management and employees. Frankly, there’s a lot of angst to be overcome before most companies can settle on scenario that works for both management and employees.
Despite evidence to the contrary, some managers assume that post-pandemic remote workers behave like unsupervised teens, ready to game the system. Employees who want to continue working from home now are actually more motivated and responsible than their managers may believe. They already have the emotional intelligence and self-discipline that leads to success; I covered this in a recent article on Medium.
Trust and loyalty are what need to be reestablished between management and employees, along with the common goal of business success.
Building Trust and Engendering Loyalty
Engendering loyalty in employees starts on Day 1 with a positive onboarding experience. If the newly-arrived employees feel welcome and have a sense that someone knows who they are (“they feel seen”), then they’re more likely to be productive sooner and stay longer.
Building trust takes longer; it develops through a combination of empathy, clarity, and commitment within leaders. Some of these characteristics develop naturally as leadership candidates gain experience; some they learn specifically through leadership training.
What is the Status of Leadership Training?
As it happens, spending on training continues to rise. The 2022 Training Industry Report has detailed descriptions of how much money is spent on training and by whom (small, medium, large companies). The report cites the need for more training because business conditions change so quickly and companies need to keep up with the changes.
The chart that caught my attention the most showed that planned expenditures for training was the smallest for executives.
Yet if executives are the locus of control and potential change, then insufficient spending on executive leadership training does not bode well. Absent the aforementioned trust and loyalty, it’s difficult to achieve a successful balance between management and employees when it comes to workstyle flexibility and retaining talent.
If you’re the executive or the manager trying to maintain cohesive and productive remote and hybrid teams, there is more than just the challenge of resistant employees. You’re up against “the system” — the “way we’ve always done things.”
What It Takes for Change to Stick
The Harvard Business Review published an article in 2016 whose discoveries are still applicable today. The researchers studied how leadership training is delivered, and whether the changes that resulted remained successful long-term. What they discovered is:
From all these streams of research we’ve learned that education and training gain the most traction within highly visible organizational change and development efforts championed by senior leaders. That’s because such efforts motivate people to learn and change; create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve studied; foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness; and put in place systems that help sustain the learning. If the system does not change, it will set people up to fail. [emphasis mine]
In other words, to achieve lasting change, employees need to see their leadership embrace and commit to change before they’re willing to trust and engage in those changes.
Given those facts, it’s no wonder that leaders are having problems getting people to come back to the office. Companies who insist on returning to the way things were before the pandemic are ignoring the fact that there has been a fundamental shift in the way people want to work. It’s like trying to put on the shoes you wore when you were 10 years old; they’re simply not going to fit. Your feet have “expanded” and so has our view of the way we want to work.
The good news is that changing the system is possible! When leaders change their mindset, they can change their companies for the better. Even if you’re not the top decision-maker, you can embrace flexible workstyles for your teams and demonstrate that they can be successful. Your success in remote team leadership puts you at an advantage when it comes time for your performance to be evaluated. And that’s where mentoring comes in.
Changing a Mindset: Training vs. Mentoring
There was another striking omission from the Training Industry Report: mentorship. That makes sense I guess, because this report is for and about the training industry. Corporate buyers find it relatively easy to justify purchasing learning management systems as a way to scale their training budgets. Investing in mentorship is subtler distinction, and less likely to be formalized or supported in a corporate setting.
But I know from personal experience how incredibly important individual mentorship is. It helps you acquire the discipline and leadership skills specific to your needs, and those skills stay with you long after you move on from the mentoring relationship.
I’ve also participated in group mentorships: learning from others in similar situations. Helping to troubleshoot and create solutions for my fellow participants sharpened my own observational and problem-solving skills.
Improving Your Performance through Mentorships
In my career, I have occasionally had a more experienced co-worker who guided me as I handled situations at work. But when you’ve got questions you cannot or don’t want to ask at work, having someone outside of work who’s “been there” — someone to whom you can turn — is huge, a game-changer for your future.
Investing in leadership training for yourself outside of the corporate structure means you can take that advantage with you wherever you choose to lead and work. In addition, you can return to an independent mentor for help with ongoing challenges or for new ones.
Coaching and mentorships come in many types and durations. You can engage in an individual or group mentorship for 3 months, 6 months, a year, or even longer. If you’re a C-Suite executive, you can also arrange for advisory consulting and mentoring for the entire company, tailored to your specific goals and objectives.
Being Mentored Strengthens Your Future
You may have already seen my writing about the value of remote leadership training for reducing costs and preventing employee turnover. As executives and corporate leaders, you are in a position to change “the system” in which you currently operate to further stabilize your company.
Investing in mentorship provides individual attention and answers to your specific needs and goals, strengthening your leadership position and engendering the trust from employees that you need to succeed. You’ll enjoy higher productivity and greater loyalty from your employees, whether they are on-site or remote.
At Remote Leadership Success we feature individual and group mentorships, and advisory corporate consulting. For details on the RLS programs, visit www.remoteleadershipsuccess.com/programs.
To book a no-obligation Executive Strategy Session, visit http://www.talktotoolie.com. You’ll walk away with 3 to 4 actionable ideas, specific to your situation and goals, that you can put to use immediately.