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4 Ways to Upgrade Your Virtual Leadership Approach

Posted by Louellen Essex on November 9, 2020 in Leadership

As the pandemic of 2020 struck, many leaders were compelled to dramatically pivot as their workplace became entirely virtually. With no live meetings or individual conversations, the computer screen and microphone became the primary vehicle for communication. While not always as valuable, virtual interactions can be highly effective if leaders are intentional about how they engage with their staff. Here are some guidelines you can immediately put into place.

  1. Out of site, but NOT out of mind. Make sure you have a mental picture of your staff, where they are working, and what their needs might be. It’s easy to lose track in the absence of informal “water cooler” communication. Post a picture of your team on your computer. Note the projects they are working on as well as their at-home arrangements. Recognize the demands of less-than-ideal office arrangements, childcare, and family dynamics require leaders to be both sensitive and supportive.

  2. Create rules of engagement. When groups meet virtually, the dynamic can be challenging. Non-verbal communication is harder to read and finding one’s pace with the rhythm of the discussion can be arduous. Ask that cameras are on and mute buttons be activated when participants aren’t speaking. If you encounter a high level of interruptions, ask group members to raise their hands when they want to speak. As facilitator, establish eye contact with everyone and draw them into the discussion. Consider using more frequent “round robins,” inviting each person to speak on a subject, one at a time. Shorten meeting time to help reduce “Zoom fatigue.”

  3. Make interaction more deliberate. What was once spontaneous, now has to be planned. Schedule more, not less, one-on-one time with your staff members. Make sure, however, that you are perceived is checking in on them, not checking up on them. Add time to make sure they have what they need in their home offices and assess how they are adjusting to virtual work. Include team building activities in your meeting agendas and do something social one in a while; i.e. having lunch or break time together. Keep the group climate productive, fun, and supportive.

  4. Lift others’ spirits. Be keenly aware that, as the pandemic progresses, staff members need to be cheered on. Share good news often. Show gratitude generously. Monitor your own mood, recognizing its impact on others. Ensure, through attentive self-care, that your virtual leadership presence is positive and bright. Now, more than ever, it is essential that leaders be great cheerleaders.

Virtual leadership requires a distinct frame of mind and a particular skill set. Leaders everywhere are learning how to upgrade their approach, recognizing that virtual work is here to stay.

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex