The new virtual work world has created new work rules, which in turn should cause virtual leaders to pivot. The days of having a private, face-to-face, distraction-free conversation in the privacy of a manager’s office are minimized or even over for some. Now many leaders see their people through a computer screen, and only if the camera is on. You could say virtual leaders have lost their peripheral vision.
What does that mean for a leader? It means that a virtual leader can’t see what’s going on in the shadows. Virtual work calls for the leader to shine a spotlight in more dark spaces. Yes, there’s plenty going on in the shadows of the people you may be talking with on Zoom that’s affecting their mindset, attention, focus, and engagement.
Virtual leaders, whether of their staff or teams, need to adopt new leadership skills, because the demands and pulls on people look different than when they worked in the office. People are more stressed out, burned out, pulled away, and working in ad-hoc home offices. Before virtual work, employees were already complaining about death-by-meeting. Just when they thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Many say they’d trade a virtual meeting for an office meeting any day.
Virtual leaders have a greater responsibility than ever before to run productive and meaningful meetings as well as lead people through the distractions. Below are some of the best practices of the best virtual leaders.
- Check in on people through a call, email, text, or card, having nothing to do with work. This helps to compensate for the hallway and water cooler talk where people connected beyond the scope of work.
- Call a virtual meeting, only when it’s the best choice of communication, feedback, dissemination of information, or problem solving. Our work culture has gotten lazy in thinking through how to best communicate, and they readily adopt a “let’s call a meeting and get everyone together”.
- Clearly state up front the meeting objectives and the decisions that need to be made before adjourning.
- Invite only those who contribute in some way to the meeting’s objective. Others who need to know the decision can be informed later by other means.
- Distribute a meeting agenda beforehand, so all attendees can prepare and focus on the objectives when they sign on.
- Ask attendees if there are any issues or distractions that may come up during the virtual meeting. If so, give them permission to leave the meeting at their discretion. This shines the spotlight in the dark places that distract attendees and shows empathy and support as a leader.
- Give attendees permission to drop visually, if connectivity bandwidth becomes faulty.
- Manage the meeting to the designated schedule.
- Invite people to engage in the conversation. People are more apt to speak up in a face-to-face meeting and tend to be more reserved in virtual settings. Ask specific people what they think.
- Ask how the meeting could have been improved before adjourning. The best question: “What could we have done more or less of to make it a more effective meeting?”
Many of these virtual leader best practices are powerful even outside of the remote work environment. However, the new normal requires leaders to show more empathy and respect for people’s distractions and time. The best remote leaders also ask their employees what they need more or less of to be successful in their jobs and working in their home environments.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com