Smart leaders adapt leading styles to the current work environment.
Smart leaders adjust their leadership style to the changing environments emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. — Getty Images/Creative Credit

If your company has gone remote, you know that managing a distributed team can be challenging. The loss of a shared office space means the potential for losing a sense of community and cohesion among your staff.

"Leaders and team members who struggled with ... communication now find themselves lost and even more challenged to complete what once were simple tasks solved by a 20 minute in-person meeting," said George Randle, VP and head of global talent acquisition at Forcepoint and co-author of "The Talent War: How Special Organizations and Great Organizations Win on Talent."

"We're becoming more siloed and isolated from our colleagues than ever before," added Sandra Duff, the SVP of activation and operations at Jackman Reinvents. "Spontaneous meetings in the office lounge or cafeteria would inspire new ideas, plans and partnerships. Now, our access to those informal moments is restricted, and teams are not connecting organically."

Leading a business in the post-pandemic world means shifting not only your management methods, but your mindset about what it means to be a collective business team. Here are six things you can do to rethink and adapt your approach as a leader in the COVID-19 era.

[Read: 4 Business Management Trends for Leading a Remote Team]

Sharpen your emotional intelligence

Before the pandemic, many leaders touted the benefits of emotional intelligence (EQ) in managing a team. Now, as employees face the daily challenges of living, working and raising families all in the same space, EQ has become an absolute necessity for today's leaders.

Business leaders need to recognize these struggles and exercise empathy and flexibility, said Lynette Pettinicchi, founder of Lynette Nicole PR. For instance, if an employee's child needs help with homework or the dog needs to go outside, employers need to be OK with employees tending to personal matters during traditional "work hours," provided their work does get done.

"Employees are working hard to keep their jobs during a time where layoffs are prevalent," Pettinicchi said. "I think leadership will begin to realize that one, they do not need to micromanage, and two, schedule flexibility can result in more quality work."

Leaders can also exercise EQ by being vulnerable and sharing their own struggles and journey during the pandemic.

"I've seen firsthand how our team has come together closer, while being remote, thanks to leaders revealing the impacts they've endured as parents, taking care of family members and their own mental well-being," said Tom Seery, founder and CEO of RealSelf.

There is an added layer of challenges when it comes to remote communication and we have to instill trust with our team.

William Vanderveer, CEO of Redefine Healthcare

Focus on enabling communication and trust

At a time when teams are removed from one another and interact less, good leaders need to prioritize and model strong communication. William Vanderveer, CEO of Redefine Healthcare, said leaders must communicate more than ever for their teams to be on board and trust their guidance.

"There is an added layer of challenges when it comes to remote communication and we have to instill trust with our team," Vanderveer told CO—. "Keep an open line of communication. Our colleagues also may be able to share experiences we can learn from, since this way of operation is new to everyone. It is important to listen and improve."

Seery agreed, noting that remote work has flattened the flow of communications and made managers less of gatekeepers and more communication enablers.

"[Take] time for personal outreach, one-on-ones and frequent all-hands sessions, and [encourage] direct reports to have lots of skip-level discussions," said Seery." This approach resonates with the next generation of talent and is here to stay post-COVID."

Get people involved in company decisions

Your employees want to feel like they have a voice in major company decisions, including what their future work arrangements might look like. Duff said Jackman Reinvents used a recent employee survey to inform its new policies.

"We discovered that the majority of employees were excited to come back to work," she explained. "We created a three-month flex schedule and a system for scheduling who is in the office when to ensure proper social distancing is possible."

[Read: Inclusive Leadership: Being the Boss of Belonging]

Make sure the team understands the 'why'

Remote employees have to learn to be disciplined and self-motivated to succeed, but they should still hear from the managers about the company's bigger goals and why they're doing the work they do.

"Make sure you and your team are clear on what the priorities are for them and that each of them know … why what they do is critical to the team, the department and the company," Randle said. "That 'why' statement in your communication as a leader helps people see that individually they are critical, yet part of a team."

Listen and empathize

Employees should be able to turn to their leaders for support during these difficult times. Pettinicchi advised leaders to listen to their employees' concerns and take them seriously if they value their teams.

"Practicing empathy will be important for the future of work, especially remotely," she added. "With the future uncertain and knowing now how quickly things can change, leaders will need to ensure they practice compassion with employees, despite … their internal fears."

Keep an eye on the future

Remote work is here to stay, but there is still change and uncertainty ahead as everyone navigates the post-pandemic world together. Today's leaders should be ready to adapt to those future uncertainties, said Vanderveer.

"Leaders are expected to be aware of new changes and stay on top of what is happening next," he said. "Flexibility and being ready to make these changes is huge."

[Read: How to Be a Great Leader During a Crisis]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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