7 Ideas on how to lead online with no blueprint

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

Leading online without a blueprint may feel risky, scary even, but it is actually quite an opportunity.

I’ve been leading remotely on purpose since 2015 when I launched Better Leaders Better Schools. I created everything from the bottom up, so I can relate to what it feels like having no blueprint.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s why . . .

It’s all invented.

If there is no blueprint, that means you get to make it up! What an incredible position to have. Sure, in an organization that has existed for decades there is the culture, values, and “The way we do things around here.” But this can often be frustrating for a leader. Inspiring people to change within a pre-existing culture is a much more challenging task than starting one from scratch.

So what does your ideal team look like? How do they work? How do they communicate?

I would encourage you to take a nice long walk, grab your journal, and dream what your high-functioning team would look like. Keep those notes close, but the next advice thing you do is lean into your people.

Ask for help.

Ask your team the same kinds of questions: What do you need to be successful here? How do you prefer to receive feedback? What are your strengths? What kinds of work inspire and challenge you?

The more you can listen and understand what motivates and challenges people, the more you can put them in a position to succeed.

If you ask for help in building and leading the team, you will share ownership of the team and its results. Distributed leadership done well is highly effective.

Have fun.

It’s tempting when leading online to stick to business items, but I encourage you to have fun. Search the internet or buy a book on improv games you can play and build relationships within the team. Ask interesting questions that allow you to understand your teammates more. Smile, a lot.

In this post, I share “5 fun ways to start an online meeting.

Get to know your people.

In this Medium story, I talk about how to use dream lists to get to know your people better. If you take action on one idea in this post, this one is it. By helping your team accomplish their dreams, they will do anything for you organizationally. I guarantee you will see productivity, teamwork, and anything else you care about soar by implementing this idea alone.

Cast the vision, allow your people to flourish.

Your job as the leader is to tell the team where you are going. Too often, leaders own a majority of the work as well. The only way to maximize your impact is to empower your team to figure out how to drive results. Then, get out of their way! Check-in intermittently to provide feedback to show people what you appreciate and what needs adjusting.

Set goals and reflect.

If you don’t have a system for setting and achieving goals, I recommend you check out Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). There is a book called Measure What Matters, which shows you how to create OKRs. I also wrote an overview of the process here.

Gather with intention.

Managers and leaders too often take for granted that people have to come to their meetings. This leads to meeting-apathy and disengagement. Priya Parker wrote a book, The Art of Gathering, and it will make your meeting, events, and every way you gather people, both more effective and more engaging. You’ll learn things like why it’s disastrous to begin a meeting with logistics and how to facilitate great discussions with conversational menus.

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀