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Essential Management Skills for Leading Remote and Hybrid Teams

December 14, 2023
A group of hybrid employees and a group of remote employees

Remote and hybrid work is rising in popularity in the United States, with over one-third of employees whose jobs can be done remotely choosing to work from home. This shift in the global workforce requires leaders to develop the skills necessary to lead remote and hybrid teams. 

As a remote team leader, you’re responsible for employees who may live right down the road or thousands of miles away. No matter the distance, remote teams need leaders with communication skills, flexibility, technological literacy, and other important abilities.

The skills you develop as a remote leader are highly applicable to leadership roles in various types of organizations around the world. You can use these skills as a leader in the public sector, the military, nonprofit organizations, corporations, or consulting firms

  1. Communication Skills

You must develop strong communication skills to work effectively with your team. You can do so through hands-on practice in the workplace, working to improve your interactions through a variety of techniques, including: 

  • Nonverbal communication: During video conferences, nonverbal communication is key. Actions as simple as eye contact or a smile can show interest and engagement in the current discussion. 
  • Time limitations: When you’re communicating remotely, time limitations are helpful. Develop awareness of your audience and your words by placing limits on how long you speak.  
  • Active listening: Strong communication skills depend on strong listening skills. Take time to ask employees for feedback and listen attentively to their contributions to the conversation.

By implementing these techniques, you’re able to improve your communication skills and create a clear and cohesive virtual and hybrid work environment. 

Beyond learning through experience, you can also pursue educational opportunities to improve communication skills. There are short-term events, such as webinars, where you can learn from business professionals and stay up-to-date on best practices for remote communication in the workplace. 

For example, you could watch Genially’s YouTube webinar on tools and resources for remote communication or DG Legal’s webinar on this subject. Both of these will take up a minimal amount of your time. Alternatively, Alliance Training and Consulting and Online Learning Consortium offer webinars through their websites. You can also pursue a Master of Global Business Administration (GBA) degree to help you develop key communication skills used in business settings.

In the meantime, here are some essential resources you can use in this regard:

  1. Listening Skills

When leaders use strong listening skills, their teams experience a wide range of benefits, including: 

  • Increased employee retention
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Improved employee well-being

You can practice your listening skills every day in small but impactful ways. For example, if you find yourself racing through each day and missing important details, schedule a specific time each day to pause and ask questions. By asking questions and spending time listening to your team’s responses, you can identify new ways to develop as a leader. 

Look into the following as you’re working on improving your listening skills:

  • Ted Talks: From Julian Treasure’s talk on conscious listening to Evelyn Glennie’s demonstration on how to truly listen, there are some true gems here.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh on Compassionate Listening”: Hanh, who was a Vietnamese monk and activist, talks with Oprah in this illuminating video.
  • 16 Active Listening Activities for the Workplace”: This blog post from shares fun and useful exercises such as “Omit the Obvious,” which is perfect for the virtual environment.

You could also improve your listening skills by stepping back during team conversations and spending less time speaking. You can observe the team dynamic and take note of creative ideas while contributing to the conversation when necessary.

  1. Collaboration Skills

The ability to collaborate with others is a sought-after skill in many professions. For business leaders, collaboration is a way to encourage creative thinking, reduce stress, and start open conversations in the workplace. 

Promoting collaboration within remote teams may be as simple as introducing new communication tools or creating shared documents where team members can simultaneously contribute work. Recent research shows that collaboration is required to facilitate high-level creative performance within a team. 

If you’re interested in improving collaboration within your team, you can start by collaborating one-on-one with individual team members. Spending time with employees through video conferencing and messaging allows you to better gauge your team’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This knowledge helps leadership create enjoyable opportunities for future collaboration. 

Additionally, consider these resources:

  1. Organizational Skills

As a remote team leader, you’ll make choices every day that impact your business. That high level of responsibility comes with the tasks of communicating, overseeing long-term projects, scheduling staff, and optimizing finances. Finding the best systems for organizing these tasks can reduce stress in the workplace and help your team reach goals effectively. 

Make sure to master your own organizational skills first—here are some resources in that regard:

One effective way to learn organizational skills is by pursuing a master’s degree. An advanced degree requires courses in leadership and decision analysis. These courses give you the time and instruction you need to develop your organizational skills and make sound business decisions when leading remote teams.

  1. Coaching Skills

Modern businesses are looking for leaders who can coach their employees towards success. Instead of ordering people around, leaders can see increased success when they coach team members by providing helpful resources, inviting collaboration, and engaging through high-level listening skills. 

If you’re interested in improving your coaching skills, you may benefit from: 

  • Books: Reading is an effective way to learn new skills and deepen your understanding. Some books that can help improve coaching skills include “Behind the Scenes” by Kim Walsh Phillips, et al. and “10 Steps to Successful Mentoring” by Wendy Axelrod, Ph.D. 
  • Webinars: Attending webinars allows you to learn from industry professionals, network, and stay up-to-date on current best practices in leadership and coaching. 
  • Courses: Pursuing an advanced business degree provides you with ongoing instruction as you improve your coaching skills. You can attend part-time and apply your knowledge in the workplace while earning a graduate degree.
  • Career coaching: Working with an executive career coach can help you develop your skills in 1:1 sessions. This can be particularly helpful, as you have the chance to practice your coaching with another person.

Leaders with strong coaching skills create a positive work environment and take time to recognize the accomplishments of individual employees. These practices improve employee retention and build stronger teams. 

  1. Delegation Skills

As a leader, you may struggle with letting go; however, learning to delegate tasks to your team members is an important step in managing an effective team. Delegation provides a variety of benefits, including: 

  • Time: By effectively delegating tasks to team members, you’re able to set aside more time for planning new projects with company leadership. Delegation can also help promote a better work-life balance for team members by ensuring an equal distribution of tasks. 
  • Opportunities: Delegation provides team members with opportunities to work on projects that allow them to expand their skills. 
  • Trust: When you learn to let go of certain tasks and delegate them to skillful team members, this helps build trust within the team. Delegation is a fantastic way for leaders to show trust in their employees’ talents. 

When delegating tasks, take your team’s strengths into account. There may be tasks you’re currently spending time on that another team member could effectively complete. You may also designate tasks to provide opportunities for skill development for team members who are interested in expanding their expertise.

Here are some resources on delegation:

  1. Technology Literacy

Technology allows remote teams to work collaboratively and effectively. Not every business leader needs to know how to code, but they do need to explore the tools that can help their team succeed. For example, these types of tools can help you manage remote and hybrid teams: 

  • Video conferencing 
  • Instant messaging
  • Project management applications

Here are some resources specific to remote technology you can access:

If you’re interested in learning more about technology, you could take graduate-level courses in data analytics and statistical methods. These courses help students acquire the knowledge they need to use digital data collection, statistical analysis, and data visualization tools such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. You can also learn these skills by spending time learning from your peers and asking questions about new technologies. 

  1. Proactivity

Proactivity in business requires leaders to look to the future as they lead their team in the present. A proactive leader anticipates upcoming challenges, has strong problem-solving skills, and initiates self-improvement and growth. 

Developing skills as a proactive leader is one way to lead by example and encourage proactivity among team members. You can develop proactivity by pursuing higher education. Graduate business degrees teach leaders to make strategic business decisions in the context of the current market and its challenges while looking to the future. This can help you learn how to look around corners and prepare for significant global events, allowing you to get ahead of—rather than simply weather—whatever storm comes your way.

Here’s some additional reading on proactivity:

You can also become more proactive by asking for help and acknowledging the skills of the people in your team. These actions show team members that their leader is humble, open to new perspectives, and proactive in finding the best solutions to current problems.

  1. Flexibility

In a hybrid work environment, flexibility is the key to success. Hybrid workers split their time between the office and their homes, and as a hybrid or remote team leader, you’ll need to be flexible when it comes to scheduling. 

Some hybrid employees come into the office three days a week, while others come into the office once a month. As a leader, your job is to adapt to the needs of your company and employees. Hybrid work helps reduce commute times, gives staff the space they need to manage family responsibilities, and provides a varied work environment to boost creativity and morale. 

You can foster flexibility through practical experience as you develop in your leadership role. Take the time to speak with your team members, understand their concerns, and explore creative ways that flexible remote work scheduling can improve your team’s performance.

Here are some resources regarding flexible leadership:

  1. Empathy

According to the International Journal of Progressive Education, prioritizing instruction with empathy and compassion is an effective way to prepare students for leadership positions. From early education to a successful business career, empathy is important, and taking the initiative to further develop empathy is a sign of a strong leader. 

You can improve your empathy by challenging your biases and inviting new perspectives in team discussions. You could also read fiction and memoirs in your spare time, as these types of books often require readers to empathize with their subjects.  

By prioritizing empathy, leaders can develop deep connections with the people around them. This can improve employee engagement, promote creative thinking within remote teams, and build a stronger rapport with team members or clients. 

Here are some books about empathetic leadership to consider:

  • Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership”: By Michael Ventura, CEO of design firm Sub Rosa, this book talks about how to practice empathy in your management.
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0”: By Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, this book helps you improve the four EQ skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. 
  1. Inclusivity 

An inclusive work environment welcomes the input and energy of everyone, no matter their role. When you build an inclusive environment, all of the team members feel that their contributions are appreciated and important. 

You can develop an inclusive workplace by creating opportunities for team members to contribute to ongoing conversations and use their unique skills, creativity, and life experiences to contribute to your company’s success 

To truly be inclusive, you must address your implicit biases. Here are some books to this end:

By taking the time to develop management practices such as inclusivity, flexibility, and organization, you can foster a team that welcomes creative thinking, effective collaboration, and strong trust between leadership and staff. 

In a remote work environment, where team members are more distant than ever, these management skills can lead teams to success.