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In Search of the Right Leadership Style for Remote Teams

Desire to track and monitor your team’s activity while working from home is natural and understandable. CNBC reports that worker monitoring tools see surging growth as companies adjust to remote work. Google searches for “employee monitoring” reached peak popularity in May’20:

Some employee monitoring software companies measured a 600% spike in interest from prospective customers. Many resources dedicated to employee monitoring software tools became available online. For example, this article from Medium lists the critical features of monitoring software such as employee desktop live viewer, smart time and activity control system, screen recording, and ranks ten software vendors.

As Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, told CNBC, one of the biggest holdbacks of remote work has been trust – “Managers simply don’t trust their people to work untethered. They’re used to managing by counting butts in seats rather than by results.” The lack of trust likely drives the immediate urge to instill and expand monitoring capabilities.

But is there a way for leaders to establish trust and sustain productivity without extensive monitoring? The following statement from a McKinsey piece resonated with us:

Many leaders will now need to “show up” differently when they are interacting with some employees face-to-face and others virtually. By defining and embracing new behaviors that are observable to all, and by making space for virtual employees to engage in informal interactions, leaders can facilitate social cohesion and trust-building in their teams.

What are the implications for teams?

Leaders should be deliberate about building cohesion and trust in distributed teams. The leaders need to ask themselves: “How will I be perceived differently as a leader in this environment? How do I “show up” for my team? How do I help my team members stay connected?”