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  • Writer's pictureTheunis van der Linde

Failing at Post Pandemic Leadership. The five pitfalls to watch for when leading remote teams.

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Do you remember when “teleworking” became a thing?

We remember attending workshops with the Calgary Economic Development community to hear about how the face of business was changing with the immersive experience of unified communications and technology adaptations.

Large companies started launching small pilot groups and creating the space for people to “work from home” – some organizations went as far as to create social policies introducing “Work from home Dress Codes” and structured days or times to attend the office to avoid “losing touch” with their colleagues.  

While some organizations embraced the remote working opportunity, many didn’t willingly walk down this path (come on - we all know the Manager who wants to “look in the whites of people’s eyes”!).

Fast forward 10 years and we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic that has accelerated the need to work remotely at a very aggressive pace.

To navigate the new norm, leaders can start by avoiding these five common pitfalls that will hamper the effectiveness of remote teams.

Note, we also published a comprehensive playbook that expand on the aspects mentioned below, as well as provide more insights and a glimpse into some tools and solutions that can be discussed with us further.

1. Transparent communication and embracing change is not in your Culture

Without an embedded culture driving you, achieving any aspect of your remote team’s leadership strategy becomes less probable

Your culture has been left back in a collaborative office environment and now you need to find a way to bring it to a collocated world where situational leadership and teamwork have shifted.

If you really want to embrace and lead through change and build a solid platform to enable effective remote team communications, as yourself these questions as a starting point:

  • What elements are essential to my team’s internal communication strategy?

  • How do I move my team from outdated communication methods and have them adopt new tools?

  • What, why and how do I communicate to my team and do I use forums, or schedule tailored personal sessions?

  • How do I build communications into my change management strategy and framework?

  • Am I guiding accordingly, and is my team adopting quick enough to not lose momentum when shifting to a remote setting?

  • Can my team ‘feel’ and ‘see’ our strategy on change and communication from me?

2. Motivation relies solely on outdated monetary centric programs

Autonomy, Mastery and Purspose.

These are three factors that lead to better motivated individuals and teams that expand beyond monetary incentives.

The typical image of a high performing team is everyone pulling together in the same direction. Previously the team most likely resided on the same floor in an open plan office where everyone could see the work being done and felt moved by the energy in the room. With remote working there needs to be different tactics to achieve the same level of motivation.

Motivated teams do what they say they’ll do, follow through and do the right thing even when “no one is looking”.

3. Your team’s organizing and problem solving Capabilities are challenged when you are not around

Every team member has different levels of skills and knowledge of work prioritization, time management and technology.

The same can be said for individual skillsets. Some team members can work in quiet isolation and turn out the same quality and quantity as before. Other team members struggle to find a rhythm and structure to delivering what was easier in a collaborative environment.

Traditional ways, like a deskside conversation to check up on your team to gauge or ‘feel’ the progress doesn’t seem as easy when teams are remote.

Having the IT swing by quickly to fix the issue of Microsoft Teams crashing has taken on a whole new meaning.

4. Your trusted processes and tools to drive Delivery are no longer effective

To drive success with your remote team, is to start with the end in mind. Work towards success using some of the following concepts:

  • Plan for delivery that is tailored to capabilities and the tools available. Standard processes and procedures provide necessary guidance to teams.

  • Plan for structured progress reports and milestones linked to goals and objectives. KPI trees and performance dashboards continuously show you the current state of affairs.

  • Plan for when and how guidance, correction or intervention is needed. It should be priority driven and pro-active. Short Interval Control [SIC] is s solid process to stay on track.

For remote teams, the focus on technological tools and platforms is a key requirement to drive delivery and performance. Walking from office to office and around that hallways to quickly get a recap or spitball some solutions are not physically possible anymore.

It is still possible, thanks to great advances in technology, to keep the focus and sustain momentum with regards to delivery

5. Leadership is a one-way street obsessed with bottom line results only

Business and continuity risk impacts profitability and is influenced by complex external factors of which leadership doesn’t have any control over. Shifting market dynamics, political and regulatory uncertainty, environmental impact, social responsibility, and community involvement are just a few things keeping leaders up at night.

External factors cannot be controlled, but they can be responded to. In our Resilient Leader workshop, we help teach leaders a critical math equation that helps predict future outcomes.

Remember this simplistic but very impactful relationship:

E+R=O (The Event + Your Reaction = The Outcome)


Companies around the world scrambled to mobilize their workforce to be able to meet the needs of their stakeholders and consumers from the safety of their homes.

We’re in a new world, and not everyone has the same capability or desire to “get back to normal” (what’s normal these days anyway?).

And let’s just put it out there, some businesses see the opportunity to save big bucks on SG&A budget line items with the reduction of office size, or the elimination of a physical office space all together.

Download the more comprehensive playbook here, and reach out to us for more information. Remember, a phone call doesn’t cost a thing.

Click on the cover page below to view the playbook.

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