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New Leader of a Remote Team? How to Open Lines of Communication

So, you’re suddenly leading a remote team in a very high position at an unfamiliar company, and everyone is still working remotely? Maybe your predecessor used the current crisis as an excuse to finally retire, sail away to the islands, open that winery. For whatever reason, there was a vacancy and now you are leading a large team of people you have never met in real life.

In a normal office environment, your first couple of weeks would consist mostly of doing research, meeting everyone, and listening. Wise executives know that making changes before you have the lay of the land leads nowhere positive. You spend this time getting to know your new company and acclimating to its unique culture and getting to know those who will become your inner circle. Much of this interaction is informal – you talk at the coffeemaker or water cooler, you meet washing your hands, you chat on the patio when you step out for fresh air.

How does a brand-new executive learn to communicate with team members when those unplanned, informal interactions cannot possibly occur? You must be intentional, even if it’s uncomfortable.

You will have studied the company web site, individual employee dossiers, and organization charts, but so much you need to understand about your new company and your new subordinates can only be learned from constant interaction.

Make plans for one-on-one telemeetings with every one of your direct reports, in the first two weeks. Do your homework, of course, but mostly just ask open-ended questions and get them talking:

  • How long have you worked here, and what made you choose to work here? How is it different from your previous companies?

Questions like these help you understand how accustomed to or invested in this particular corporate culture they are, and whether they took the job because of it or despite it.

  • How do you fit into this team? How can I help you be effective? How do you want to grow?

With these sorts of questions, not only are you making sense of how the roles intersect, but you are also gleaning hints of their personality type and work style.

  • Has this always been home? If not, where did you grow up?***

This type of question can open up conversations of culture, which translates to communication styles. Are they from a different country? From a small town? So many factors contribute to identity, most of which affect the best ways to connect deeply them

***. If you have not already, take training on cultural proficiency before diving into cultural discussions. If someone of Asian descent tells you they grew up in New Jersey, do not ask “where are they really from.” This is considered a microaggression and can be one of the fastest ways to create distance with new employees. 

These deliberate conversations may feel awkward because they are the first, but understanding who your new team is and what they need is vital if you want to develop rapport.

If you would like assistance with this adjustment, or with your communication style in general, we are here to help. Give us a call and see how Corporate Speech Solutions can improve your professional life! 

Call us at 212-308-7725 or send us an e-mail at jayne@corporatespeechsolutions.com to learn more. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!