The #WorkLifeShow: The Benefits of Being a Quiet Remote Leader

Sally Hetherington   22 July, 2021
Featured #WorkLifeShow

In our recent interview for The #WorkLifeShow, Kathryn Wilson was joined by award winning leadership coach Juliet Morris, co-founder of Open Square Ltd., a management consultancy that empowers leaders through unique leadership training, coaching and consulting services.

Juliet offered some tips and tools to help leaders stay connected with their staff whilst remote working, with a focus on the benefits of continuing part-time remote working as well as offering an insight into what it means to be a quiet leader.

Prefer to digest the interview in another format? A recap of The #WorkLifeShow is also available on YouTube and as a Podcast.

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Juliet began by explaining that as someone with many years’ experience in HR, she quickly realised that every organisation that she worked with encountered the same problems, being that they were stuck in a system of doing things the way they had always been done: “There is so much opportunity in people and businesses which often goes missed because of this sentiment - policies and processes, systematically thinking that's the way it should be done, and just copying other people.” She felt that this approach didn’t allow anyone to reach their full potential and be successful, so together with her husband Stephen, she co-founded Open Square as an umbrella of tools to train leaders to tap into this potential.

Juliet is a great supporter of remote working, although she believes she has been fortunate in being able to do so. “People think remote working is new and it's not. People have been working remotely since way before the Industrial Revolution. Only when the Industrial Revolution happened and everything was produced in factories did you have separate workspaces and home spaces. So it's nothing new, but the pandemic forced everyone to go remote.” 

She understands though that remote working doesn’t suit everybody, and some jobs by their very nature cannot be done remotely. “Some people are confined and like the interaction. The studies that are coming out now all talk about engagement and community and connectivity. So while most of us are comfortable in our connectivity with Zoom and Teams, there is that fear of missing out.”

She explains that in the past you were present at the office and in the moment, experiencing everything. She gave the example of the watercooler conversations, or just walking around the office. However with remote working there was a sudden barrier, which could cause feelings of isolation, which she believes is the biggest challenge. 

She feels that going forward people should be given the option to be more flexible and choose whether to go back to the office full-time or work part-time from home, to allow the opportunity for those all-important watercooler conversations, whilst still having the flexibility of working remotely.

Juliet sees great benefits in the way things can be in the future, in that by reducing the office footprint, it will create a space for new experiences for people to meet up, not necessarily at the office, and in doing so it will broaden the employee experience and create new excitement for what used to be standard office meetings. 

Concerned about the work-life balance of your employees? Click here to find out how Covid has impacted that and what you should be looking out for.

Juliet has also created a podcast called Conversations with Quiet Leaders, which was borne out of the fact that as an introvert, she’s had to counterbalance the amount of meetings and interviews she can have with regaining her energy from her own space before exhaustion sets in. This led her to wonder about how other quiet leaders manage, and not just big names like Barack Obama and Gandhi, but people in everyday life.

So she started having conversations with people, asking questions around how it feels, have they found their voice and how do they lean into the fact that they are quieter whilst finding the beauty in that and the power in their quiet leadership. 

“I think the real benefit is that it's all about continual learning. It’s never about me. It's about something else - a bigger purpose, a bigger goal, and making it sustainable. It’s not about success at a point in time. Yes, we can see the bigger picture and it could be iterative. So we're going to gather all these views and listen and talk a bit more, listen again, and tweak it and look for solutions. It's possible to learn and then you can create sustainable growth from it.”

On the question of what leaders can be doing to ensure that their staff feel empowered to carry out their role and feel motivated to perform whilst working from home, Juliet stressed the importance of talking and listening, and not just with one or two people, but with a variety of people across the organisation in order to learn what works and what doesn’t work. 

“You have to park your ego to one side and think about what you need to do to help the business and help the team, showing that care and vulnerability. As leaders, it's really scary: you are expected to know everything, which is hard and requires grit and resilience to keep going, even when you fail. So have some space for yourself. If you're in a leadership position, you have to lead yourself first.”

Juliet believes it’s important to communicate this to your employees and ask a lot of questions. She understands that boundaries can be an issue, so it’s important to agree on the expectations and have some guide rails, so that people know that they can call you or drop you an email or note without fear of being penalised for something.

 “For me personally, it’s about helping more people. So having more than one conversation with more than one organisation and more than one leader. In my tool kit I do some coaching, I do some consultancy - it could be group work, it could be teamwork. But the idea is that it's all always about moving the dial. So people who want to be better, work better, build better teams, whatever that looks like.”

Click here to find out why employees need good leadership more now than ever before!

Juliet concluded by explaining how she manages to achieve work-life balance in her own life: “I schedule everything, but most importantly, I schedule in some time for myself. So in my diary, I have the times when I need to go pick up my son from school, the times when I need to cook dinner, the times when I'm having coaching calls, the times for networking calls, creating calls. It's all in my diary, but you know I build time for myself as well in there. ”

On the subject of time, she left us with the following advice: “Decide how you want to create your life. So whatever that looks like for you, start to create it. We all have the same amount of time in our lives, we will all have twenty-four hours a day. How you schedule that and how you create it, that’s up to you. So, yes, there are requirements and things you need to do, but even creating 15 minutes of space for you a day or even once a week is often enough to get you in that groove to channel your energy through that. And that's an absolute priority.”

Juliet concluded by explaining how she manages to achieve work-life balance in her own life: “I schedule everything, but most importantly, I schedule in some time for myself. So in my diary, I have the times when I need to go pick up my son from school, the times when I need to cook dinner, the times when I'm having coaching calls, the times for networking calls, creating calls. It's all in my diary, but you know I build time for myself as well in there. ”

On the subject of time, she left us with the following advice: “Decide how you want to create your life. So whatever that looks like for you, start to create it. We all have the same amount of time in our lives, we will all have twenty-four hours a day. How you schedule that and how you create it, that’s up to you. So, yes, there are requirements and things you need to do, but even creating 15 minutes of space for you a day or even once a week is often enough to get you in that groove to channel your energy through that. And that's an absolute priority.”

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Sally Hetherington

Full time teen wrangler, part time writer, passionate traveller and wannabe chef.

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