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How Leaders Can Engender Trust and Empower Their Remote Workforce

One of the subjects that came to mind for me recently is the subject of empowerment. When I launched Achievement Resources, some twenty-three years ago, I searched for a tagline that was simple for me to communicate to the marketplace, but that would remind me daily of my mission, "empowering people for success."

Photo: Courtesy of Wix Media

Over the last forty-eight hours, the principle of empowerment has surfaced very prominently again as I've examined what is required for individuals on teams to voluntarily produce and deliver their very best. I'm convinced that the ultimate approach to empowering others involves helping them identify their greatest desires, dreams and goals. And affirming their value and worth while helping them discover their interests and skills. When their skills don’t align with their interests, it’s important for leaders to provide avenues for them to build relevant skills.

Ultimately, when leaders encourage and support their team members to pursue their interests to the best of their abilities, they become excited and feel emboldened and empowered to pursue their interests fully. Effective leaders help them see how their interests, fully pursued and consistently refined, can be aligned to help both themselves and the organization of which they are a part, prosper.

So, how do leaders help remote workers perform at levels that meet the levels they attained when they were directly supervised? How do leaders achieve results that compare favorably with those that were produced in an environment that managed their productivity? A common premise has been that workers produce at optimal levels of effectiveness in an environment that is controlled and structured. But for many of us who’ve worked in those environments, we know there’s a lot of time that is quite unproductive. The casual conversations and watercooler discussions that happen on a daily basis can take away from productive time and workflow, especially when employees exploit such opportunities. Those casual conversations are also counterproductive for employees who are easily distracted.

In addition to the time that is wasted in idle discussion, quite a bit of time and energy is also wasted in the commute to and from work. The typical commute to and from a place of work could require one or two hours daily, and often it's more. Over the course of a work year that may include four weeks of time away from work for vacation and other personal reasons, that equates to six to twelve weeks of lost productivity from every worker who commutes. That's literally one to three months of productivity, lost contribution, to the mission of the organization.

Today, the challenge effective leaders must tackle is how to weigh the costs of lost productivity due to the spontaneous and random interactions in the workplace, and due to commuting, against the reality that unplanned in-person interactions provide opportunities for idea generation, inventiveness and inspiration that advance growth and excellence in individuals and organizations.

Remote workers can be productive, or even more productive than workers in a physical location. For that to be so, they must be helped to find their biggest sources of motivation. That means leaders must seize opportunities to facilitate discussions with their team members about what matters most to them. Leaders must continually seek to uncover the intrinsic motivations that cause their team members to be fulfilled and successful, not just at work but in their lives at home. As a matter of course, helping them identify what matters most in their personal lives creates an impetus for them to be more engaged with their work.

The idea that leader is boss only is increasingly obsolete. The employer and leader must be teacher, mentor, and guide, in addition to being supervisor, manager, and boss. That is the leadership that is required today, especially as it requires improving the performance and effectiveness of team members. There needs to be a partnership between leaders and employees. And it must be of a particularly acute nature when workers are not immediately visible or are working remotely. That means leaders must adopt new types of attitudes, skills, and behaviors, and show great amounts of empathy and concern for the wellbeing of the person of the remote worker.

So, models of leadership must be utilized that engage team members on matters of their personal lives. Indeed, using virtually any number of video conferencing tools and methods and engaging team members as a team and individually. The approaches may include time off for a simple check in at the end of the day or end of week. It may involve, as is the case in one organization I know, insisting that all team members turn their computers off and stop work at midday on Fridays during the summer months. Maybe the model may encourage having a casual chat over a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and opportunities to get together in person once a month, or once a quarter, depending on the nature and size of organization. These may be built into the leadership model just to get together, just to be connected in person, and satisfy the need of humans for physical interaction and engagement.

The new model of leadership is not just for use at work, but to be utilized to understand people, to clarify where they are going, to understand what they need, to determine what help is required, and to support what is most important to them. The leader, and leadership group of an organization, must provide partnership in their lives. The relationship must transcend the idea that team members are human resources of an organization, employed to grind through to the end game of profit for the organizations and those who benefit from it.

The new reality to which leaders must evolve goes beyond prevailing approaches to leadership. It demands that leaders, to be effective, sow deep emotional bonds that allow for everyone who participates in the endeavor to feel connected, be engaged, and want to contribute their best for the benefit of all who are involved.

Renwick Brutus' career has spanned roles as research economist, investment advisor, entrepreneur and consultant. He holds an MBA from Fordham University and has been recognized for his outstanding achievement in sales and business leadership. Today, Renwick applies his unique blend of business strategy and interpersonal skills to help individuals prosper and companies grow. He is actively engaged as an entrepreneur, advisor and executive coach to business leaders. Contact him by email and LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

Richard Lewine
Richard Lewine
Oct 03, 2022

Exhaustive commentary on the state of organizational culture and leadership, Renwick. An accurate assessment from my perspective. This is why I have scheduled a Presidents Group kickoff for October 24th at 1:00 PM Eastern, on Zoom. Let's collaborate to get 5 leaders in this program.

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