Leading Remote Teams With Effective Writing Skills Requires Rethinking Persuasion
Leading remote teams requires the execution of effective writing. Unfortunately, in a world of short attention spans, low patience, and flashy visuals, clear concise writing is often ignored.
The much-lamented decline of writing over the last thirty years has been well-documented and it doesn’t mean that leaders of remote teams can afford to ignore the power that writing has., thus the presence of tools like Grammarly
“I would blog everyday if nobody read it.”
“Write everyday like you talk. Nobody has a talker’s block.”
Because there are so many tools to persuade in a leader’s toolbox, most notably the spoken word, leaders give short shrift to effective writing as a form of persuasion. Writing is often underrated as a way of engaging with clear thinking and effective persuasion, but when working to lead remote teams, it’s a skill set that cannot be beaten.
Writing is persuading with words, turns of phrase, and even via adopting a tone, perspective and approach to an idea, a thought, or a concept that requires a leader to believe in the value of learning and focus, rather than being “wowed” by the latest management fad or tool.
But, what can you expect when the leader themselves confuses the tools of writing with the act of writing itself?
Leading Remote Teams with Effective Writing Skills Requires Rethinking Our Tools
Leading teams with effective writing skills means that leaders must rethink the value and impact of the remote communication tools in their ecosystem, particularly their use of video-based meetings, emails, and instant-messaging tools.
The number one place where leaders’ writing skills suffer is email. What is the purpose of email?
- Is it to communicate with speed over depth?
- Is it to make sure that the team complies with a directive?
- Is it to track the progress of work?
- Is it to determine productivity levels?
- Is it to create “busy” work so teams appear productive to upper management who, in turn, want to appear productive?
Without answering any of those hard questions first, many leaders and teams in organizations fail to understand the power of writing as a form of persuasion, and then fail to use the tool, email, as it was intended: to get a deep point across, encourage thinking and reflection, and to create space for a measured response.
Instead, many leaders and teams employ email as a proxy for instant messaging, quick reminders, task lists, etc., and usually only think about the impact of persuasion and become intentional about being persuasive with effective writing when they are using writing to cover a mistake or to assess blame.
Leaders of remote teams need to do better.
What Are We To Make of All of This?
Leaders of remote teams need to consider the following statements and questions as truisms, rather than as suggestions—or advice:
Writing in a remote work context involves asking, and seriously answering, the following question: Could that meeting have been an email?
Writing in a remote work context involves understanding that email as a tool should not be a “time suck” but managed like any other communication tool and that writing is an act of persuasion, not a way to browbeat, control or micro-manage a remote team.
Writing in a remote work context involves understanding that the inherent value in working remotely lies in creating the mental time and space to deliberate before acting, before deciding, before eve agreeing or disagreeing with a particular team direction or focus.
Writing in a remote work context involves carefully and deliberately choosing words for maximum impact, seeking the appropriate tone for collaboration, and avoiding using the tool (email) to avoid accomplishing what the act (writing) should be doing.
Leaders of remote teams should seek to do the following:
- Leaders of remote teams should seek to encourage and develop excellent writing skills and embedded such skills deeply into a remote team culture.
- Leaders of remote cultures should create spaces for writing as the act of doing so creates a context for deep learning, deep focus, and deep work.
- Leaders of remote teams should work to develop clear, concise, and purposeful writing styles with clear “calls to action,” goals, expectations, and reflections on reality.
If leaders engage with writing in this way, then leading remote teams through effective writing will become a valuable skill set that can serve to plant seeds of growth repeatedly over the life of the team.