Ten days ago, Elon Musk told staff, “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla.”
I don’t believe ordering people to stay in the office is realistic. Any company can make remote work a permanent part of their success if they work at it.
Real-time examples of when remote work fails were addressed last week at two of the companies where I am on leadership teams. Three people who are no longer employed with either organization had other jobs. There was a first issue discovered on Linkedin. A week after being let go, the manager of a key territory updated their profile to say they had been working full time in a competitive job for over a year. In hindsight, the manager was given too many last chances before being terminated.
Two teammates who had declared side hustles recently parted ways with us. All three of these individuals were talented and had significant potential, but they failed to take the initiative or find enough time to make an impact in their roles. None of these teammates were led to be exceptional or to a quicker exit by their managers. mediocre results were produced by the engagements over a year.
I don’t want to decode any deception or understand their goals, that wouldn’t solve the issue. I am certain that had their managers been more successful at creating deeper connections, there would have been an opportunity to better align their career goals with their primary jobs and enhance their chance to win. It goes to the heart of the problem Musk outlined, how do you create a deep connection when you never meet someone face to face?
For that to happen, we need to raise the bar and enable leaders to create communities where remote workers can excel and lead. The expectations of a managers responsibility to connect with teammates and the expected results of contributors who choose to do remote work should be raised. I wrote a book aboutRemote Leadership: How to Accelerate Achievement and create a Community in a Work-from- Home World because I believe that it’s critical to organizations success to solve the remote work puzzle. If work is exceptional across the board, remote work can be extremely beneficial for an individual contributor, a manager and an entire organization. It’s important to define and manage high standards to lead a growing organization. It requires that as leaders we hold our teams and ourselves accountable and that we put into place programs and processes that replace or enhance what we lose when we are not face-to-face so that we can take advantage of the extraordinary gains remote work can offer.
There are more challenges when managing remote teams in a growth culture. Managers can see effort differently in the office than they can in the hybrid world. They are able to assess more of the intangible assets that contribute to success because of the type of effort that surpasses prompt email responses and kept deadlines. If someone is struggling to be exceptional, the trust that develops faster can be used as currency. I have seen remote teammates fail at higher rates due to a lack of access to those subtle determinations.
Tools and training are needed to enable managers to act with confidence. A manager’s ability to facilitate deeper connections combined with the discipline to hold their teams accountable is the ticket to success In environments where the bar is set to expect the exceptional and leaders have the skills to get their teams performing at a high level, this happens. At all levels, leaders need to be exceptional at asking deep, probing questions, listening without prejudice and sharing their own similarly personal experiences instead of focusing on telling their teams what to do and how to do it. I and my partners talked about accountability in the future. It is easy to point the finger at the employee, but the responsibility lies with those at the top. The heart of the issue is not whether or not someone has multiple professional commitments. The examples I shared were of talented and capable people who were not managed to being exceptional and less than exceptional performance was accepted for too long. Each instance has a responsibility to be solved by leadership. Regardless of what Elon says or does, remote work is here to stay and our ability as leaders to integrate it will make or break our ability to succeed