Distributed teams – The death of command & control


How today’s leaders can help their teams thrive.

Having a remote workforce has huge consequences for all elements of organisational success, but perhaps none more fundamental than the role of leadership.

It is now brutally clear that all organisations need to plumb in innovative mindsets and true agility to build resilience and growth at the core. We need people to work independently, and be smarter about collaborating on new ideas at pace.

Command and control-style leadership simply will not create the necessary impact when your workforce is remote. It relies too heavily on walking the halls, need-to-know, divvying out tasks and in-person cultural conditioning to be effective.

So, if you’re struggling to think of things to do to keep your people motivated, delivering and innovating, here’s three things to experiment with.

Stop managing process, start building playgrounds

In a remote world, it is increasingly difficult to keep track of the work your teams are doing.

It will be tempting to add more progress updates in the diary. But this risks swamping you + your teams in meetings about managing the work, and getting in the way of what you really want — progress towards solutions.

Instead, try freeing yourself & the team to run fast towards progress by creating a motivating vision for the team. Be a leader who is clear about the impact you want your team to create. Tell them what’s in and out of scope for the work, and then give them the space and time to get creative. You own the why and the by when. Your team owns the what, and the how.

Don’t ask your team for a plan, ask them to show you what they’ve created so far. And then be on-hand to reduce noise, distractions and politics keeping people focused on the impact you want them to create.

Stop knowing the answers, start knowing the questions

It’s an increasingly complex world, and — as we’ve seen clearly this year — never seen before challenges are the new normal. As leaders, we need to encourage our teams to find new solutions to new problems. Free yourself from the expectation that experience or seniority means you know the answer. You don’t.

But your experience means you know the right questions to ask to find the way to an answer.

As your team goes about finding solutions to your challenge, it will be tempting for them to come to you for ‘what we should do next’. Don’t be tempted to tell them what to do.

This stops curiosity, and over time will disempower them. Instead ask them questions which open up new avenues to explore. Seek insight. Tease their solutions out. Use the power of questioning to evolve their thinking.

Only when your team gets curious will they get to groundbreaking ideas.

Stop relying on serendipity, start building the connections

One of the biggest reasons for an office is it forces chance conversations that spark new ideas. Our businesses are dependent on these serendipitous encounters to grease the wheels of innovative thinking. But if everyone is at home, no one is stumbling upon anything.

One of the new roles for a leader is to bring new stimulus into the mix. Constantly finding ways to expand your network, and hook your teams into interesting people who might have fresh perspective on the challenges they are encountering.

Using your oversight to spot the common and uncommon connections across the work will accelerate progress towards your goals, and create more potential in your teams.

Once you can start doing these three things, your teams will move faster than you thought possible, and you’ll free yourself from the burden of ‘management’. This will give you the space and time to look up, think ahead, and really lead.

Remember, change is the only thing that’s certain in these mad times. Be kind to yourself and to those around you. You won’t get it right. The important thing is to start the shift, and measure the impact. And we’re here to help if you want a chat.

Want your teams to be motivated, delivering and innovating? Let’s talk!