Many are finding it challenging to work and lead without the benefit of occupying the same space as teammates. I am sympathetic and get it.
I know some are struggling with access to files and technology. Others are finding remote work and leadership difficult because they are missing the important social interactions that comes with working in an office. There are many reasons that people are finding work more challenging, but the concept of working and leading remotely certainly is a contributing factor.
But, in all candor, I don’t really think that working out of my basement storage room is much different from the way I work with my team members all of the time.
I feel like I not only have a level of comfort with all of this, I think I have an advantage.
Here’s why I think I have an advantage.
First, I trust my team members—all of them—admissions, financial aid, communications & marketing, alumni relations, development and the good people at WVIK—because they are awesome at their jobs and always put stakeholders above themselves. When people are awesome at their job, one doesn’t need to babysit them and constantly check in with them eyeball to eyeball. Not seeing people for a month or more isn’t going to diminish the confidence I have in my teammates to do great work.
Next, I am comfortable with remote work because I already manage a number of people who spend a lot of their time working away from campus. I am blessed to have three amazing colleagues who work remotely as regional admissions representatives. I understand their work and how they work and have a level of comfort with it that I can simply extend to everyone else who is now working remotely. Moreover, the very nature of leading an admissions and advancement team requires leading people who are engaged in remote work all the time. I mean, seriously, admissions folks are out recruiting, living out of a car for months, and, great development officers spend more time out of the office than in the office. Heck, my director of international recruitment spends six weeks at a time halfway across the globe. Remote work isn’t really new and there are plenty of mentors to help those who don’t have as much experience.
Finally, over the course of the past few years, when I took on responsibility for two large administrative divisions at the college, I started splitting my time between two different physical offices on campus. I guess I’ve been a bit of a remote leader for some time. And, I don’t use remote to mean disengaged or distant. But, the fact is that I am not always present for someone to pop into my office and see me face-to-face. I’ve had to figure out ways to be fully present, even when my presence isn’t with those who may need my attention. This is a lot like what I’ve found myself doing for the past two weeks from my bunker in my storage room at home. The chats, Zooms, Google Hangouts, texts, calls and emails don’t seem a lot different to me. My level of comfort of leading remotely has grown considerably and may even result in better, more timely responses to members of my team and other colleagues, than when I am tied up in meetings that could have been handled by a phone call.
I kind of like all of this, because it’s not a lot different for me than a typical day “in the office.” What I do miss is my near-daily ritual of making my rounds around Seminary, Founders and Sorensen Halls saying “good morning” to all of my amazing colleagues. But, I am learning to interact with everyone else in the same way I’ve been working with my regional staff and all of those hearty travels over the course of the years.