Leading The Tribe # 10

To Survive The Unexpected

Step 10: Leading from FAR AWAY

One of the benefits of the crisis we are experiencing today has been the rapid development of telework. The availability of powerful and easy-to-use software has made it possible to communicate face-to-face or with several people in an agile, flexible and efficient way. This habit will remain. Indeed, authorities around the world are advising to continue this way of working at least until the pandemic stabilizes and effective treatments and vaccines are available.

But beware, videoconferencing is not real life. When we are physically with a person, we are sensitive to many non-verbal messages that are often lost during “technological” interactions, especially when there are many of us on the screen.

The widespread move to matrix organizations in international companies has long been a key distance factor in the exercise of management. It is not uncommon for leaders to have to manage teams that are relocated, far away from them, and that they rarely meet. For many people, at the beginning, it was a nightmare. It is low normal life for many of us. The drastic reduction in business travel will only reinforce this situation and develop the need for remote management capabillities. The tools are there. Practices must develop.  This is vital.

There are many reasons why a leader is not always “with” their team. Travel, vacations, distant customer visits jet lag …

The most important challenge for leaders is to establish sustainable trust with people and teams that are distant and only met periodically. All the good practices that are necessary for a co-located team become crucial. Confidence in the “project”, confidence in the shared and agreed upon processes, confidence in the people, self-confidence. Each of these fundamental dimensions must be worked on continuously, through regular communication, dialogue, control and feedback. The French say “far from the eyes, far from the heart”.  Distance is never far from oblivion and oblivion is fatal for a distant team. What could be said once in a co-located situation, should be said five times and reformulated for verification.

In a face-to-face situation, it is easy for us to sense whether an employee agrees with what we expect, whether that employee is committed or hesitant, whether we can count on him/her or not. In a situation of distance, everything becomes more complicated and it is necessary to follow up on a more regular basis in order to ensure the smooth running and consistency of an action plan.

There are also s political reasons for leading from far away. The leader is usually part of a team led by a more senior manager or executive. They often cannot discuss what they debated on that team with their own people. In those cases, it is up to the leader to keep that distance and not share despite the friendly pressure that their subordinates never fail to exert. Leaders who “talk too much” lose credibility and gain nothing in the relationship they have built with their team members.

We know that outstanding leaders surround themselves with competent and loyal collaborators. Without this, taking distance and leading from far is very risky, if not impossible.

The mutual trust a leader has developed with their team really pays off here and those leaders don’t have to lose any sleep over being away. An achieving the highest level of trust in a remote situation required specific skills and attention.

In STEP 11: In step 10 we’ll discuss method. How ICM / PAWLIK responds technically, practically, to today’s challenges. What types of programs? Which tools to use? How to ensure a good deployment of a leadership development program in the long term, while mobilizing participants in a reasonable way.  

Charles Gancel

April 2020


ICM Associates (Paris) is a member of the PAWLIK Consultants (Hamburg)

Have a look at Step 1 Leadership definition

Have a look at Step 2 The world as it goes

Have a look at Step 3 Facing dilemmas

Have a look at Step 4 Leader tomorrow

Have a look at Step 5 Leading from above

Have a look at Step 6 Leading from ahead

Have a look at Step 7 Leading from beside

Have a look at Step 8 Leading from among

Have a look at Step 9 Leading from behind




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