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Leading a remote team

by jcp

By Lisa Shaddick- Managing Director, Indaba Communications

The business world has changed beyond recognition, and for many, that change is permanent. Most businesses have been forced to embrace a work-from-home approach and some have decided it’s a model worth continuing. But this shift brings a raft of interesting leadership challenges.

At Indaba, we pioneered virtual working in 2009 when we left our posh Marylebone townhouse office. At that time, almost no companies had taken the full virtual plunge, and anyone “working from home” was suspected of sitting in their pyjamas on the sofa watching movies all day hoping no one would call.

Twelve years later, it is fair to say that leading a remote team of dynamic, multi-cultural communications professionals has been a journey. We have invested in technology and been completely obsessive about process. We are always looking to find better, more efficient ways to do things.

But there are a few things that are really essential.

The first is exceptional communication. We joke amongst ourselves that as professional communicators, if we can’t get being a remote team right, no one can. And just a heads up – that communication involves listening too!

The second is having a clearly defined and aligned culture and values. We live and breathe our values. During the monotony of lockdown – even for seasoned remote workers like the Indaba team – we pulled together as a team, leaned into our values and found strength and support in each other. For many of us, myself included, our work and our team were our touch points of sanity in all the madness.

Lastly, is trust. In a time of crisis, people look to leadership, so has been so important. I am very lucky to have a strong management team with whom I have worked for decades. I trust them with my life – and with my dogs! In turn, our team trusts us to make the right decisions for the business, and by default them, even if they aren’t nice decisions. And we can do that because that trust is deeply ingrained.

So, for leaders who are still getting to grips with a team that is entirely working from home, stick with it, and I promise you it will pay dividends.

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