The Remote Leader Mindset

By: Chris Butsch

As a leader, trying to keep your members engaged while remote is hard. Here are just some of the reasons why:

  • Engagement automatically drops when everyone’s not in the same room
  • Zoom isn’t perfect
  • Everyone’s distracted
  • There’s little validation in it for you

I’ve been a leader since college and I honestly can’t think of a tougher time than right now to try to keep a group of people engaged. So to protect my mental health, I keep five things in mind during every Zoom call, every email, and every setback.

I collectively call these five tenets the Remote Leader Mindset. I sincerely hope it’s helpful for you, too:

  1. You’re not alone. Before the pandemic, 41% of the American workforce worked from home at least some of the time, and big companies are still experimenting with ways to keep them focused. Remote engagement is challenging some of the smartest leaders in the world, so it’s not just you.
  2. Disengagement isn’t personal. When you’re doing everything you can to hold your org together and people still drop out and disengage, it can feel personal like a breakup. But keep in mind that there are hundreds of reasons why members disengage that have nothing to do with your leadership; they may have family commitments, lack the time or money, or simply have poor Wi-Fi.
  3. Silence doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s disengaged. In psychology, the “negativity bias” states that we tend to focus on the negative because it’s better for survival. So when members don’t join Zoom calls or answer emails, we quickly assume that they’re disengaged and tired of us. But don’t assume that just because someone’s quiet that they’re disengaged; they may be hanging on every word!
  4. Remote disengagement is temporary. Keep in mind that there’s a huge contingent of people who naturally drop off over the summer or during large breaks from school, and when things go back to normal, they’ll return to meetings like nothing ever happened.
  5. Any amount of remote engagement is a victory. If only a handful of members consistently show up for Zoom calls, that’s still a huge victory.Even before the pandemic, 70% of college students reported symptoms of mental illness. Student organizations are therefore essential because they’re a source of belonging, purpose, support, sisterhood, and other forms of mental nutrition.So when you invite 71 members to a Zoom meeting and only 4 show up, that might feel like a huge defeat. But in reality, that’s a victory times 4, because one of those four members might be starving for a sense of connection and normalcy.

That’s the Remote Leader Mindset. Anytime you feel sad or frustrated that nobody’s responded to your email, or panicked because you’re not sure how recruitment is going to work, take a deep breath and remind yourself that:

  1. You’re not alone
  2. Disengagement isn’t personal
  3. Silence ≠ disengagement
  4. Remote disengagement is temporary
  5. Any amount of remote engagement is a huge victory

Which of the five tenets of the Remote Leader Mindset was most helpful to you? What would you add as the 6th? Connect with me on Instagram and let me know @chrisbutschspeaks.

Thanks for reading.