Merge's Blog

If you’re leading from a distance, you need to shift your leadership focus

Today’s blog post continues with our video series on the challenges that come with leading from a distance, and how to get past them.  My tip today is to shift your leadership focus from effort (or process) to outcomes (or results)

Shift your focus from effort to outcomes

When I talk to clients who find themselves leading from a distance, the one thing they repeatedly tell me that there is one mental roadblock that they themselves have to overcome.  And it is the concept of effort versus outcomes.

In the office environment, you could visually assess effort and outcomes – how the work was done and what was accomplished.  But now that you are leading from a distance, you can only assess outcomes.  You can tell what the end-result is, but you don’t know how your staff did the work, or what approach they used, or when they did the work.  So your challenge now becomes how to move to a more results-focused approach.  You can’t focus on the process, you have to focus on results.  Leading from a distance is about establishing outcome-oriented expectations that you then hold your employees accountable to.

Use the “so that” link

The trick to this is what I call the “so that …” link.  When you establish expectations with your staff, the key lies in converting the how (the effort) into the what (the outcomes).  And you do this by using “so that”.  Let me give you an example.

The client reps will respond to e-mails within two business days so that client issues are dealt with on a prompt and polite basis.

The point is that when you’re leading from a distance, you cannot verify the effort.  The process of doing it – the how – may be invisible to you since you are not able to observe how your employee is doing the job.  However, you can observe, and in many cases measure, the visible result.

Leading from a distance means that  you need to shift from process to results

You don’t know whether the client rep is responding to emails within two business days.  But you can verify that client issues are dealt with in a prompt and polite manner.  Either because you haven’t received any complaints, or because you’ve talked to a sample of clients and they’re pleased with the response they are getting.  See the difference?

Leading from a distance isn’t just about your employees changing how they work.  It’s also about you making a mental shift in yourself.  And for many leaders, making this shift from effort to outcomes is difficult.  Yet, if you are going to make your virtual or hybrid teams successful, it is absolutely critical that you make this leap.

Well, have you made this leap?  If you haven’t, why not?  What is getting in the way of making this critical shift?  I’d love to hear about your experiences – successful or not.  Please add your comment below.

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