Effective leadership is one of the top elements of organizational success and in both the short and long-term. During uncertain times, leadership becomes even more important. And with our current situation of remote working, leadership is being challenged like never before. Below we highlight three tips for virtual leadership.
It’s important for executives to improve their leadership skills for virtual work conditions. Keeping teams that are geographically separated, engaged, productive, and connected is difficult. A recent article from Spencer Stuart notes that, “25 percent of virtual teams are not fully performing and 33 percent of teams rate their virtual leaders as less than effective.” This illustrates the need to continue working to improve skills for virtual leadership.
One of the foundations for any leader is the ability to build trust with their boss, their peers, and their team. Working remotely requires leaders to build on the trust built prior to the changes brought about by the pandemic. If you have new people on your team since moving to a remote environment, you’ll notice that it will take longer to build interpersonal trust than you’re used to. According to the article, here are a few ways to help you build trust with virtual teams:
- Early on during the team’s formation or transition to a virtual environment focus on (re)creating rapport by hosting several virtual meetings to build relationships, create a sense of purpose and address team goals.
- Explicitly use techniques and technology to encourage open and honest communication during virtual meetings.
- Empower people to make (and then act on) decisions.
- Find ways to help people interact informally outside of the team’s work.
Technology has shown how effective it can be in keeping virtual teams connected. Using video communications is a great way to collaborate, even though it isn’t a substitute for human interaction. Holding virtual meetings, from one-on-one interactions to all-hands meetings, is a great way to keep employees from feeling disconnected. Encourage employees to set up virtual meetings to build relationships and achieve objectives. Per the research:
- Deliberately make time for connecting people and deepening relationships at the start of every v-meeting — when people feel “checked-in” to a meeting they tend to stay more engaged.
- Create opportunities for virtual coffee chats, lunches or virtual happy hours to help people engage with other team members.
- Have team members from different locations pair up/partner and rotate these pairs/teams periodically to help build new relationships, particularly with people from different functions or geographies.
- Hold shorter, interactive meetings and use email or other communication tools to share information.
By the very nature of working remotely, employees are working more independently. This provides leaders an opportunity to increase how they show their support. Even though employees are working on their own physically, they still need to work with others to complete tasks. Remote working can make this type of collaboration more difficult. Demonstrating encouragement keeps everyone aligned and motivated. Tips from the article include:
- Make “care calls” to periodically check in on team members.
- Set up smaller teams composed of people interested in specific topics so they can work more autonomously on projects.
- Provide virtual feedback or coaching in a timely manner.
- Celebrate success as a team with virtual office parties or team lunches over video conferencing.
Remote working is going to be part of our professional lives. It will encourage the development and use of soft skills including, “self-awareness, empathy, humility, agility and resilience.” These skills have been a focus for executive development over the past few years, and virtual leadership is forcing the application of these skills. If you have questions or would like to learn more about effective virtual leadership, let us know how we can help.