The Long-Distance Leader

Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership

Kevin Eikenberry (Author) | Wayne Turmel (Author)

Publication date: 06/05/2018

The Long-Distance Leader
Leadership first, location second

As more organizations adopt a remote workforce, the challenges of leading at a distance become more urgent than ever. The cofounders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, show leaders how to guide their teams by recalling the foundational principles of leadership.

The authors' “Three-O” Model refocuses leaders to think about outcomes, others, and ourselves—elements of leadership that remain unchanged, whether employees are down the hall or halfway around the world. By pairing it with the Remote Leadership Model, which emphasizes using technology as a tool and not a distraction, leaders are now able to navigate the terrain of managing teams wherever they are. Filled with exercises that ensure projects stay on track, keep productivity and morale high, and build lasting relationships, this book
is the go-to guide for leading, no matter where people work.

Read more and meet author below

Read An Excerpt

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Overview

Leadership first, location second

As more organizations adopt a remote workforce, the challenges of leading at a distance become more urgent than ever. The cofounders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, show leaders how to guide their teams by recalling the foundational principles of leadership.

The authors' “Three-O” Model refocuses leaders to think about outcomes, others, and ourselves—elements of leadership that remain unchanged, whether employees are down the hall or halfway around the world. By pairing it with the Remote Leadership Model, which emphasizes using technology as a tool and not a distraction, leaders are now able to navigate the terrain of managing teams wherever they are. Filled with exercises that ensure projects stay on track, keep productivity and morale high, and build lasting relationships, this book
is the go-to guide for leading, no matter where people work.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Kevin Eikenberry
Kevin Eikenberry is founder and chief potential officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group. He’s been named one of Inc.com’s Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and is the author of several books, including Remarkable Leadership.

Visit Author Page - Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel is the cofounder of the Remote Leadership Institute and the author of many books, including the Association for Talent Development’s 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations.

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Excerpt

The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership

Chapter 1

What We’ve Learned about Long-Distance Leaders

You cannot manage men into battle.
You manage things; you lead people.

—Admiral Grace Hopper

Eric is a solid manager and has had a traditional team in place for five years. Lately, he’s been dealing with people working from home several days a week. On the surface everything’s fine, but as he told us, he spends too much time worrying about what he doesn’t know, or what might be happening, rather than the work itself. He second-guesses himself more than ever and feels less confident in his decisions. As he said, “So far so good, but for how long?” There are a lot of people like Eric.

If you’re reading this, you agree with us that doing “okay” or “not terrible” isn’t nearly good enough. Leadership is aspirational; no one who picked up this book wants to be merely average or normal. You want to be an excellent leader and, if possible, to achieve that with far less stress than you’re experiencing now.

When we started looking at the day-to-day challenges faced by LongDistance Leaders, we had a pretty good idea of what we’d find—after all, we’ve worked with dozens of organizations and thousands of people over the last few years. Still, we wanted to quantify what’s happening in the world and check our assumptions with measurable data. That led to our Remote Leadership Survey.

In 2017, we conducted a voluntary survey of more than 225 managers who have at least part of their team working remotely.1 Admittedly, this is a small sample size, but the results bear out what we’re hearing every day. If we were looking for shocking results or data that came out of left field, we didn’t find it. What we did discover is that the challenges for remote leaders very closely mirror those for managers in any situation, and that the majority of leaders report that things are . . . okay. Not perfect—things could always be better—but certainly not the-place-is-about-to-collapse awful either. There are also signs that as part-time teleworking increases and more companies change to a remote labor force, the cracks we did find will only grow.

The survey highlights challenges that arise because of the distance between people and the use of technology to bridge those gaps. As you’ll see in a moment, that makes perfect sense, and it confirms that what we are experiencing with our clients isn’t unusual. The data points out what needs to be done to prepare leaders for a new way to work and to help develop the skills required to do the job well.

Here is what we learned.

Demographics

image The managers crossed every possible industry and discipline. Government and sales accounted for 11 to 12 percent each, and even with seven categories, 46 percent of respondents were “other.” This is an important point—leading remotely is a fact of life not limited to specific industries or disciplines.

image The size of teams is changing. Of the respondents surveyed, more than half had teams of ten people or more, 25 percent led two to five people, and 21 percent led six to ten people (figure 2). This is slightly more than the average of direct reports under the same roof and may indicate a new trend toward broader spans of control, which only exacerbates the challenges of leading remotely.

image

Figure 2     Sizes of Remote Teams

image “Remote teams” doesn’t mean everyone’s working elsewhere. We often think of remote teams as either wholly remote (everyone is scattered to the winds) or co-located. In fact, over 70 percent of leaders said they had a “hybrid” team, with a 50-50 split between teams with full-time and part-time remote employees. The other 30 percent had a completely or mostly remote team (figure 3). This is by far the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Failure to address this now means more stress down the road.

image

Figure 3     Team Makeup

image Other demographic data. Respondents were 60 percent male, 40 percent female, and they were an experienced bunch: 34 percent were aged forty to forty-nine and 37 percent were fifty to fifty-nine. A surprising 19 percent were over sixty. This makes sense since 78 percent of them had been managers for eight years or more. This confirms an important point: time as a leader doesn’t seem to make the transition to long-distance leadership any easier.

What’s Going On out There?

We reached a group of experienced managers, across multiple industries. Yet when we asked, “How’s it going?” the answers were strangely in accord. Here are some examples:

image Over half say they “get the job done,” and an additional 28 percent say their team is “highly productive.”

image When asked, “Where do the productivity challenges lie?” 10 percent say the problems are with remote members, 4 percent say they are with the “home team,” and 69 percent say there’s no pattern to it or it’s hard to identify the roots of the problems.

image Trust runs a little below productivity, and while most managers say the level of trust is okay (both between themselves and individuals, and between the various members of the team), there are more problems reported here than anywhere else on the survey. The largest part of our respondents say that trust levels aren’t awful, but it’s a gap worth working on.

The Biggest Worries

Finally, we asked specific questions about challenges these leaders face. We presented four common questions remote leaders often ask themselves and The feedback we received is shown in figure 4.

The first question gets asked most frequently when working remotely is new, or in organizations or industries where trust is traditionally low, including highly regulated union environments and government. Based on our experience, senior leadership is overly worried about precisely what people are doing at any given time. Notice that remote leaders are more worried about the last three questions, which are more personal.

image

Figure 4     The Biggest Worries

What Are People Afraid of?

On the surface, it sounds as if everything is generally fine. You have experienced people feeling pretty good about the people they lead, and the work is getting done. What’s the problem? But when you explore the written comments, you see the cracks in the armor, and they echo the concerns we hear every day.

image “With people around the world, it’s become impossible to ‘turn off.’ I’m connected 24/7/365.”

image “We aren’t efficient at meetings. Too many people check out or don’t participate.”

image “There are divisions between the remote people and those who work in the office.”

image “We don’t see many engagement or performance challenges until it’s too late.”

image “We’re great at getting work done that’s properly defined and scoped. It’s coming up with new ideas, dealing with surprises, or implementing new things that create problems.”

image “Focusing on the urgent vs. the important is hard enough, but you don’t know what others are focused on.”

We could go on, of course, and we’ll share more comments and stories as we go, but here’s what the data says to us.

image Leaders are making things happen in this new environment because they are working longer and harder. They want to succeed in the virtual world, but they’re doing it through effort and guesswork. We believe there is a better way.

image Although many organizations are starting to plan for teleworking (with policies and support) and training their remote leaders, the planning lags behind the reality. Leaders are trusting their instincts and doing the best they can, yet they aren’t finding the support they need in existing company training or general business literature.

image They lack confidence in themselves. Phrases like “I’m never sure . . .” or “I worry about . . .” pepper the comments. This uncertainty undermines effectiveness and adds to the stress of a new and unfamiliar work landscape.

image Experienced leaders sometimes struggle with technology. As psychologist Jean Twenge says in her book iGen, experienced leaders are used to a different way of working.2 Though many of the things that enabled their success are still relevant, there’s a feeling that they’re working with one hand tied behind their backs and struggling to connect with younger, more tech-savvy employees.

image Generally, those new to leadership roles are comfortable with technology but lack fundamental leadership skills.

Some Important Things to Remember

As you read through the rest of this book, here are some important things to think about:

image Remote leadership, while becoming far more common, has always existed. It can be done well, and you can do it.

image Leading at a distance is still leading—and while there is far more that has remained the same, the differences must be acknowledged and addressed to have the success you want and your team deserves.

image The skills you need to communicate, influence, build strong working relationships, and engage people can be learned, developed, and replicated throughout the organization, but only if you understand the dynamics at work and identify the skill gaps to mindfully address them.

image It’s not just you. The very questions, doubts, and concerns that brought you to this book are simultaneously challenging millions of other smart, talented, dedicated—and exhausted—leaders.

Pause and Reflect

image What are your biggest concerns or challenges about leading at a distance?

Online Resource

If you’d like to take the survey for yourself, go to

     http://RemoteLeadershipInstitute.com/LDLsurvey and add to the data we’re collecting to help other future leaders.

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Endorsements

“Wayne and Kevin's book offers the reader a solid foundation in leadership in any circumstance and layers it with virtual leadership or leadership at a distance. It is full of nuance and nudges that will help you navigate through the labyrinths of leading at a distance. I especially appreciated the snippets where Wayne and Kevin reveal their ways of working together; this added a very real and personal touch. I encourage you to purchase the book, study the rules, reflect on their questions, put the book into practice, and become a leader who can ‘go the distance.'”
—David Zinger, founder and host of the Employee Engagement Network

“Great book. Spot-on timewise. Moving from ‘managing' people to ‘leading' people has never been more relevant when overnight everything we do as a business could change. A manager manages people; a leader employs great people and trusts them to achieve amazing results.”
—Ann Andrews, CSP, author of Lessons in Leadership

“Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel have teamed up to produce the single best guide on remote leadership on the market today. Based on research with real-life practicing managers,
The Long-Distance Leader offers nineteen rules that guide remote leaders through the most pressing challenges they face—everything from the best use of technology, to effective long-distance coaching, to achieving goals, to building trust at a distance. And even if you aren't a long-distance leader, at least not yet, you will definitely want to have this book handy. As the authors rightfully acknowledge and our research supports, you have to ‘think leadership first, location second.' The engaging stories, the practical wisdom, and the reflection and action questions will help you improve your leadership wherever you and your followers are.”
—Jim Kouzes, coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and Dean's Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

“When I discuss what a leader is with midlevel managers, this book will be on the reference list for them. They can assess themselves on the leadership skills ladder, establish goals, and work directly with their managers and mentors. I particularly like the ‘check-in' section . . . I find my development participants increase their impact and performance with the knowledge they have a voice and are thought about, even though their leaders might physically see them only once a year . . . A practical approach to the journey of success as a remote leader . . . We should all consider what skill we are going to focus on today.”
—Alicia Davis, Director, Global Finance Learning and Development, Dell Inc.

“Leadership isn't easy. Working remotely adds a new dynamic. The practical tips in this book give readers the edge they need to be successful leading remote teams. Many teams struggle with communication; add the component that you have remote employees and it gets more difficult. The tools in this book give you what you need to be a better leader, as well as the competitive advantage to get the most out of your remote teams.”
—Marcie Van Note, MBA Director, Mount Mercy University

“Finally, a superb leadership book with a purpose: dealing with the challenges of long-distance leadership. A must-read for leaders of all organizations dealing with the increasing demand for and challenge of long-distance leadership. As global economies force more and more organizations to deal with this leadership challenge, this book provides a well-thought-out and practical guide you will want all your leaders to inculcate.”
—Major General David Ralston (US Army, Retired)

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