Managing is difficult, even under ideal circumstances. Add in a remote setting, and it gets even trickier.
But working remotely doesn't prevent you from leading effectively. If anything, it highlights a critical skill all managers could stand to improve. And that's understanding the personalities of the people you lead.
Take a moment to think about a direct report. How do they like to communicate? How do they prefer to receive feedback? According to the Predictive Index, there are four motivating needs, or "drives," that have the biggest effect on workplace behaviors: dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality.
This is important to know, because the more insight you have into employee behavior in the workplace, the easier it is to tailor your leadership style to this person's needs.
To make this practical and applicable, ask yourself four simple questions about your employee:
1. How dominant are they?
A dominant personality prefers independence. They like owning a task and seeing it through on their terms. Conversely, someone who is less dominant prefers collaboration. They relish the team effort that brings a task to completion. And when conflict arises, they seek compromise.
Depending upon where your employee falls, the way you manage them may change drastically. If they're highly dominant, give them opportunities to work independently. Encourage them to take on new tasks and projects while remote. Moreover, recognize them for their contributions.
If your employee is less dominant, do the opposite. Find ways for them to work collaboratively -- whether that's over email threads, video calls, or shared documents. Recognize the impact of their work as part of the larger team.
2. How extroverted are they?
Remote work affects everyone, but especially more outgoing people. Just as an introvert needs time to think and reflect, an extrovert needs time to talk and socialize. So when the hustle and bustle of the workplace is replaced by the solitude of a home office, the change can be jarring.
To help an extroverted employee acclimate to remote work, find ways to maintain the social interactions of an office setting. Provide regular check-ins via video calls. Create chat rooms in messaging platforms like Slack, or even schedule virtual coffee breaks.
At the same time, allow your more reserved employees to thrive in this setting. Give them the freedom to interact with co-workers at a pace that's comfortable for them. You can even encourage them to share best practices with those who may be struggling with remote work.
3. How patient are they?
An employee who is highly patient enjoys stability. A patient personality is also known for being calm, collected, and methodical with their work. By contrast, a less patient personality craves change. They enjoy juggling multiple tasks and the variety it brings to their workday.
To manage patient employees when remote, lean into their calm demeanor. Rely on them to support other team members, carrying out tasks as needed. Allow them the time to be productive at a pace that works for them.
For your less patient employees, look for opportunities to add variety to their workday. Even with the added disruptions of children, pets, and laundry, remote work can quickly feel routine. Give these employees tasks that'll keep them on their toes throughout the day.
4. How formal are they?
If an employee is highly formal, they enjoy structure. They view rules as facts and tend to follow them down to the fine print. Compare this personality to a more informal one. This type of employee values flexibility over rigid structure. To them, rules are more like guidelines.
With your formal employees, be sure to give them the structure they need. Set clear expectations about upcoming tasks, and communicate deadlines so they can stay on track. Consider them an expert in their field, and look for ways you can help them grow.
Your informal employees don't require nearly the same direction, nor do they want it. Be careful not to micromanage them. Instead, trust them to complete tasks their way, even if it's different from what you're used to. Just ask that they provide regular updates as they go.
Leadership is never a one-size-fits-all approach. As remote work becomes more prevalent, make sure you manage your people how they want to be managed. The sooner you adopt this mindset, the better off your people--and organization--will be.