Effective leadership looks a lot different today than it did a year ago. That’s because effective virtual leadership is different than in-person leadership. Besides inspiring people to achieve a mission, you may also be a life coach, psychologist, mentor, and friend. Many of your staff are juggling competing demands and filling roles of caretaker and teacher while working full-time. What your employees need from you has changed dramatically during the past seven months, and each individual’s needs are different.
Never before has keeping employees engaged and inspiring morale been more important, or more difficult. You are guiding your employees in the midst of a tumultuous economy and into an uncertain future—all while using Zoom! This new landscape requires you to tap into the below capabilities as you learn to lead better remotely.
Hone your soft skills.
A remote environment tests your people skills, emotional intelligence, and communication capabilities. Called soft skills, such social capital is critical for your effectiveness as a virtual leader. You can achieve soft skill success with the following best practices:
- Ask each employee what she needs to be successful in her job and how you can support her well-being. Then, make it happen—show up as a compassionate leader and deliver the flexibility your employees are asking for in this time.
- Overcommunicate. In a virtual workplace, information channels must be varied and frequent. Share what you know about your organization’s future when you know it and remain transparent and authentic.
- Above all else, listen. The nonverbals, body language, and other interpersonal cues we rely on when face-to-face are stripped away in a virtual environment; verbal meaning and nuance can be lost. Spend less time talking and more time listening to ensure you are truly hearing your employees.
It takes more effort to remain accessible to employees in a remote workplace. Show employees your proverbial door is always open with these simple actions:
- Set regular office hours. At least weekly, block off your calendar for employees to schedule time to meet with you. Ensure all staff are aware that you are available during these office hours and honor your commitment by keeping this time free.
- Meet with your team more frequently. If you met with your staff once a month in-person, then meet with them twice a month virtually. Team collaboration and cohesion require more intentional connection when remote.
- Encourage spontaneous “drop-ins.” Although water cooler run-ins and hallway chats cannot be replicated virtually, office drop-ins can take place via Teams or Zoom just as easily. Cultivate a culture of open and spontaneous communication.
Champion all people.
Reduced workplace gossip and office politics are positive outcomes of a virtual workplace. Take advantage of this more level playing field by providing your staff the following opportunities:
- Redistribute power. Use this time to reassign tasks. Delegate new responsibilities to employees who typically do not hold them and encourage all staff to take new risks. This exercise will help to flatten the organization’s hierarchy, strengthen your culture, and show your people you trust them.
- Hold employees accountable. It is important that your employees continue to meet their goals and your organization drives toward its mission. When you cannot see people beyond the screen, it can be harder to track their outcomes. Establish short-term milestones and provide ongoing feedback on performance. Set clear expectations while giving people the flexibility to achieve their goals.
Even as we look ahead to a new normal, the need for the above skills will not disappear. Leadership is refined in difficult circumstances, and leaders who put in the work now will set themselves apart for the future.
Contact Brighter Strategies today for support in developing your team’s virtual leadership skills.