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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

Workplaceless Leadership

Working remotely is not new to many organizations. The pandemic however has caused emphasis to be placed on this movement; primarily due to the discomfort or at least the rugged shift organizations have experienced. The shift in thinking is all about productivity - How can I measure or ensure my staff is actually working?

Back in 2013, I was appointed principal of an alternative school. My district was considered to be a large urban area. The design of the alternative school was comprised of 8 remote campuses that were all led by 1 principal - me. This was a new design. No other principal in my district had this designation. It was up to me to think creatively and figure out a way to lead the adults and students. One of our primary challenges was the coordination of carrying out common tasks at the 8 sites. Rarely did it look the same. Another challenge was scheduling meetings for all of my faculty to come together. Logistically, face-to-face meetings were difficult due to space and timing and the sites' start and end times were different. Back then, scheduling a virtual or conference call seemed impersonal to me. I felt like I needed to see my team to lead them. In between having our whole group meetings, I would visit the 8 sites and conduct individual team meetings. While this solved the problem of being impersonal, it was rather time consuming and messaging was often delayed. From the date of the first meeting to the time it took to conduct the last meeting, information had changed or new information was available.

It took a pandemic to force me to get pass my insecurities. To let go of my fear to explore innovative opportunities.

As I now work to lead my team and facilitate our work remotely, I find myself focusing on communicating clear expectations, mapping out tasks with timelines, and a monitoring process. My team is small but responsible for a great deal of work. From week to week, we meet virtually. I am able to share updates and hear feedback from my team. From this meeting, I message the focus for the coming week and emphasize any relevant timelines. After which, I work to follow-up and observe the process of the tasks that are in play.

During this time, we have refined our work practices. We went into the situation looking for ways to transfer our in-person way of work to an effective remote process. What we've found is that working remotely can be just as effective with the proper systems. Although my team and I come together at the end of the week on a virtual call, it's the phone calls, texts, and emails that occur during the week that allow us to advance the work. While I have a monitoring process, I also have learned to release and trust my team. Giving them the autonomy to lead without me peering over their shoulders brings out their creativity and alignment of the work across multiple remote team members.

Our remote working system is thriving. Many of the systems we created are relevant for remote work with or without a pandemic. How are you managing workplacelessness?

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