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Leading from Anywhere

Unlock the Power and Performance of Remote Teams

By David Burkus
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Leading from Anywhere by David Burkus

Leading from Anywhere (2021) is a guide to leading a remote team, covering everything from building a company culture, managing performance, and running virtual meetings to providing feedback to team members. In addition to setting out the best way to manage a team remotely, it makes a strong case for remote work in general. 

Key idea 1 of 7

Understanding and shared purpose will hold a remote team together.

Coronavirus unexpectedly swept across the world while most workers were still working in offices. Suddenly, companies everywhere, regardless of industry, scrambled to assemble remote teams.

Many businesses struggled as lockdowns made in-person interactions impossible. But others adapted quickly, turning a challenging situation on its head. Innovative Fitness was one of those businesses. It offered an elite personal training service, which somehow had to transition into virtual workout sessions. Not only did it manage this transition, but it flourished – bringing in more customers than before.

Teams that succeeded, like that at Innovative Fitness, shared two things: a close understanding of what each employee needed to be successful, and a big, company-wide purpose.

Here’s the key message: Understanding and shared purpose will hold a remote team together.

The best teams understand each other’s skills, habits, and remote-working situations inside-out. First, they know what every individual is good at and, taking into account personal preferences, assign responsibilities accordingly. Rather than trying to force people into unsuitable roles, everyone does what each does best. 

Second, these teams accommodate each employee's unique work situation. Identifying some of these situations may be easy, like cultural contexts and time zones. But others may not be as obvious, like caring for children and other domestic commitments – even if the team is local. Or the fact that everyone has slightly different routines at home from at the office. Being considerate of other team members makes for more effective remote collaboration.

Along with understanding each team member’s needs, the best teams have a company-wide purpose. This holds the team together and keeps its members motivated, even in the difficult days of a pandemic. 

The truth is that most people want to feel like they're contributing to something bigger than simply creating shareholder value. They want to feel like their company is solving a problem or contributing to a wider cause. 

So, to create this purpose, ask the ever-important question: What are all of you fighting for? This is what will bring everyone together every day. 

Generally, there are three types of fight in this context. There’s the “revolutionary fight,” which is about changing the status quo in the industry or in society. Then there’s the “underdog fight,” which is about taking on big industry names and winning by doing things better. And lastly, there’s the “ally fight,” which is about fighting for your customers and stakeholders. 

Whichever it is, this shared mission will make your team stronger.

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