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Leadership, Soft Skills, and Remote Work

The shift to remote work will likely continue in the years ahead, even after the coronavirus threat is contained. As leaders, knowing which soft skills are adequate for remote work and how we can best identify and bring those skills to our teams is critical.

Soft skills such as adaptability and flexibility have always been essential but have yet to be absolute must-haves. In today’s new paradigm, flexibility, strong communication skills, and the ability to adapt as working conditions evolve are the most important qualities a candidate can have for the road ahead.

Here are suggestions on how leaders can develop their team’s soft skills:

Communication: There is no doubt that remote work requires excellent communication. Having the team become familiar with various virtual communication tools like instant messaging, and videoconferencing apps could be beneficial. Leaders must ask their team members how they prefer to be communicated with and how often; in this way, they do not come across as micromanagers. Also, leaders must consider Zoom fatigue and work on crafting low-context communication, which includes high precision and detail.

Adaptability and Resiliency: Change can be frightening to many, mainly when you are pivoting to an entirely new way of working, which may be unfamiliar to you or your team. As leaders, we must remember that a remote transition is not a binary switch, it’s a journey of iteration, and we must be open to rolling with waves as each day is a chance to learn. As leaders, we must be present and prepared to adapt to unexpected situations like IT issues, knowing whom to contact for resolution and simply being creative in problem-solving to find solutions which is part of being adaptable.

Self-Motivation: Discipline and self-motivation are necessary for remote work, and employees need to be proactive and take the initiative without constant monitoring by their leaders. We must also be aware that there will be distractions working from home. Leaders can encourage or provide noise cancelling headphones and other flexibility techniques such as allowing employees to block off certain times of the day to dedicate as focus hours and working on sprints for a period, then taking a short break before repeating the cycle.

Collaboration: It is much easier for employees to collaborate when they sit beside each other. Working remotely, team members need to stay connected with routine check-ins. Leaders must demonstrate to their teams that working remotely doesn’t mean working alone, encouraging groups to use tools like project management software, shared documents, and other platforms where team members can easily chat and find information.

The pandemic forced organizations worldwide to adapt to remote or hybrid business models. The remote work environment is a win-win if there is an authentic culture of connection. Leaders must foster flexibility and invest in the growth of their employees as it sends the message that they care about them, reconnecting them to the organization and creating a sense of shared purpose for the road ahead.


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