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5 Ways To Boost Your Leadership Impact From Afar

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LEADERSHIP 9/16/2014 @ 7:55AM 3,958 views
5 Ways To Boost Your Leadership Impact From Afar
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In the ever-growing global market where a personal connection with employees grows more and more challenging every day, the ability for leaders to influence others becomes more challenging. With greater geographic dispersion comes a natural impediment to leadership effectiveness, which is manifested by leaders spending less time with their people due to other “business priorities.”
Time is a finite resource that rarely gets optimized simply because “office fires” arise that throw priorities askew. How a leader spends his or her time sends a direct message to the rest of the organization. In other words, leaders have a plethora of initiatives to focus on at once and must choose which ones will yield the greatest impact for both the short- and long-term. The one common denominator amongst them all, though, is people.

People make or break an organization, and the more you, as a leader, get out there and circulate amongst the populace, the more effective your leadership becomes. Doing so with eight thousand employees all over the world isn’t easy and necessitates a clear game plan to optimize not only your time but theirs as well. If you don’t visit your remote offices, you should. People need to see their leader in action. They need to understand his or her personality so they can feel closer to the organization since many people get nervous being around senior leadership. You want to humanize yourself. Show them that you’re not a robot, that there is a face with the name, and that you are indeed human.

In determining your global leadership strategy, consider the following five practices to help boost your leadership impact from afar:

1. Visit remote offices. Getting out and about amongst “the troops” allows leaders to better understand the intangibles of workplace culture and climate that cannot be replicated through email. It also provides keen insight into employee morale and organizational health. For employees, they get face time with their fearless leader whom they’ve known thus far only through mythology and hearsay (ok, maybe an exaggeration but you get the point). This gives a leader the chance to address questions and shed light on new context. Additionally, how a leader shows up is everything. Attitude is just as contagious as a yawn, so if you’re feeling grumpy because you missed your coffee, get over it. Time to put your leadership hat on and play the role.
2. Show your face. While communicating amongst geographically dispersed teams and organizations is certainly more challenging, distance is not an excuse for poor communication. Meeting people face to face is still the most effective means of building a mutual understanding, which is why it’s so important for leaders to circulate amongst their regions. Relationships are formed not in the boardroom but in the hallway that lead into the boardroom ; in the one-off encounters that happen too infrequently because the pace of business change doesn’t allow for “loafing” by the water cooler. Now, I’m not advocating loafing by any means, but rather more opportunity for informal dialogue. If physical presence is not feasible, take it one step lower and use video. There are myriad free tech tools out there such as Gruveo, Join.me, or AwesomeTalk to share your mug across time and space, and the more people see it, the more you become a human rather than a position.

3. Take the road less traveled. By visiting remote areas of the company, a leader directly acknowledges the value that that particular business function serves, and as a result, indirectly influences onlookers. With external business units observing their leader’s behavior from afar, they realize the need to “up their game” because “the boss” (not the author) may pay them a visit down the road. Recommendation: take a new route into the office every day to broaden the amount of interaction you have with employees. If you routinely use the front door and hang a left, bank right instead. Or, use a side door and stop by offices that you normally don’t.

4. Iron your T-shirt. How a leader shows up is everything. Edward Wimmer, co-founder of Road ID, shares his key to success in an article by Jeff Haden:
We have a very casual “jeans and t-shirt” environment at Road ID but I still never leave for work without ironing my t-shirt.

Yes, I iron my t-shirts.

I use this simple routine as a subtle reminder to myself that Road ID, like every company, needs a leader. Even in a super-casual environment, the boss should look the part. Nothing says, “The buck stops here,” like a neatly pressed t-shirt… right?

5. Aim for crisis. Timing is everything, and especially critical in building rapport. In times of crises or hardship, a leader’s mere presence can serve as an uplifting reminder that nothing lasts forever , not to mention re-energize morale across the organization. Additionally, acknowledging the difficulty that people face is one way to quickly disarm any tension.

No matter how many ways you approach it, staying connected comes down to presence, to physically being there so you can connect authentically with others . While the benefits of email, Skype and webinars bear convenience and certainly success in sharing information, there’s just nothing like a face-to-face meeting to really connect–and lead.

Follow Jeff on Twitter. His upcoming book “Navigating Chaos: How to Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations” will be out in 2015. Read about it here.

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