SIM National News

 View Only


By Lydia Sullivan posted 01-25-2021 12:16


Lessons I Learned from my Long-Distance Professional Relationships



In our life before Covid (B.C.), most of us saw our colleagues, friends, and family every day. We had one or two long-distance relationships and that was plenty. Now, times are changing yet again with the release of the vaccine. We are now in After Distancing (A.D.). This raises the question…


How can we apply what we know about maintaining those pesky long-distance romantic relationships to our now long-distance professional relationships?


I’m so glad you asked! Here are 7 of the best tips to handle the A.D. times we find ourselves in. 


1. Communicate 

Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Experience has shown that we need to turn the dial up and communicate more frequently when we can’t spend time together. Whether it’s a video call, a phone call (yes, phone calls are even more important now!) or sending a handwritten note, make a habit of reaching out, not just when you need something, but simply to check in and say hello. 


2. Be Intentional

If you’re not able to touch base often, make sure to be intentional when you DO connect. If you know a big project is coming up for your team or colleague, send a message to give them a heads up, provide regular feedback and share successes to encourage them. This secondary form of communication goes a long way in establishing and strengthening that relationship. 


3. Raise the Tough Issues Remotely (And In Person)

This is a bit of a no-brainer. We ALL need to learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way. Early in the pandemic I had coaching clients who would say “Oh I’ll wait to raise this issue when we are back in person” or “I can’t do this over zoom, or the phone”. My advice is don’t wait. Issues left unaddressed will only fester and who knows when we will be back in the office and in person. Instead take the time to discuss the small (or big) issues today. In doing so, you avoid a lot of stress and tension down the road. If you find yourself having to go back and repair situations you might be missing something with your colleague. Talk it out with them and get to the bottom of it. 


4. Prioritize You

Do you remember when you used to travel frequently? During the safety briefing you were always told to put your own safety mask on first, before helping others. The same is true when investing in your professional (and personal) long distance relationships. Different schedules, time zones, work preferences, etc. can all create obstacles when working with long-distance relationships. Create a schedule of your best “You Time” - peak performance, absolute attention, all that jazz. Like it or not, you can’t be at your absolute best all the time. 


5. Align Goals

You both work for the same team. Make sure goals are aligned and satisfy both you and your long-distance colleague. Discuss what it means to be part of a high-performing (virtual) team and what maybe staying the same, and what needs to change to accommodate the practicalities of working from home. Do SLA’s need to be adjusted, meeting cadence updated, perhaps you need to agree times when NO meetings will be scheduled. Make the implicit explicit and decide together how and when the work gets done.


6. No Detail is Boring

One of the common mistakes made in relationships is overlooking the little details. Often, these are the very glue that holds together the relationship! Some great questions to ask your colleagues: 


● What podcast are they listening to? 

● What books/movies are they into?

● What do they do to break up the litany of working from home? 


These aren’t just icebreakers, they’re conversation starters. Follow up on what you learned, when you do your team will feel you care and connected to the team. It’s the little details that have a big impact in the grand scheme of things. 


7. The Secret Ingredient

It’s trust. Oops, now it’s not a secret! The fact of the matter is, you cannot control what your colleague does. It takes time to establish trust and rapport with those you work with. The question you have to ask is, “Are you being the type of coworker you would like to have?” If you answered yes, good for you! If you answered no… Well, you may want to take notes from this article and get to it! 


I’d love to hear from you and the innovative ways you are nurturing the sense of connection with your team and long-distance relationships during this A.D. time we find ourselves in! Please send me a message.


Morag Barrett is a great friend of RLF, a highly accomplished keynote speaker, leadership development expert and bestselling author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships and The Future-Proof Workplace.   Morag is also the founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, a boutique leadership development firm, and has supported more than 15,000 leaders from 20 countries and on 4 continents achieve outstanding results by improving the effectiveness of their leadership and teams. Morag encourages you to reach out to her at or via her LinkedIn profile.