Many of us are working virtually and leading a fully virtual team for the first time. Before Covid-19, we might’ve liaised with certain team members who were remotely positioned, or we might have worked from home for a portion of time each week, but it wasn’t anywhere close to 100% virtual and we weren’t doing it under these challenging and unusual circumstances. This might be the first time you are experiencing back-to-back virtual meetings that often seem to lack engagement and energy. You have the power to change this and to lead your team to success. To make this a reality, we need to equip ourselves with new skills and adapt to a very different way of working and living. We have a programme – Key Steps to Lead Your Virtual Team to Success’ that has become very popular because it enables leaders to do just that and… ‘be the difference that makes the difference’.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Meanwhile, here’s some Key Steps you can start taking now:
- Break patterns of insanity. As Einstein said, we show signs of really insane behaviour when we keep doing the same thing but expect a different result. We cannot lead and work the same way we did before. For example, taking the slide deck that you used in face-to-face meetings and using it, as is, for virtual meetings, is not likely to translate well. You’ve got to work harder and use different techniques to keep people engaged and keep your visuals moving. If meetings without video aren’t bringing the desired levels of engagement, let people know well in advance of the next meeting that they need to be ‘camera ready.’ I often joke that I don’t mind if you come into my workshops with no make-up or not having shaved for a week – I just want to be able to ‘see’ you. In all areas of you work and personal life, look for what isn’t working and try something different. I have many ideas I’ll look forward to sharing with you if you can join one of our workshops.
- Connect human to human. We are hard wired to crave human connection. Endless research shows that babies who are starved of physical contact have an array of developmental delays and difficulties. There might be members of your team who have not had a hug in over five months. There are likely even more members of your team who are missing casual connections and chats that happen around the coffee machine or water cooler. There are bound to be members of your team who are trying to home school and manage small children at home while working. Show empathy. Check-in with your team and show a genuine interest in how they are doing outside of work obligations. Show that you care and that they matter beyond meeting targets. You might not be able to connect with your team members physically but you can do your best to connect with them emotionally and show them that they are ‘seen’, that they are valued and that they matter.
- Be an example of healthy boundaries. People are working longer hours than ever. Work is bleeding into personal time and space like never before. While many of my clients express that they enjoy working from home, they also admit that they are struggling with maintaining healthy boundaries. For 13 years, I have worked from a home office so I am used to separating my living and my work spaces. I seldom take my laptop out of my office; when I close the office door, work stays there. Admittedly, I do put in many hours late at night because, being a night owl, it is my prime time and it’s also when Mila sleeps. Keep in mind that I’m self-employed and love my work so sitting writing this article for you at 1am isn’t a chore but rather a choice to serve and one that I make very gladly. I do still get times when I put in too many hours and the things I usually enjoy become drudgery. Then I stop and listen and make sure I give myself what I need to recharge and fill my cup.
Do your best to model healthy boundaries for your team and do not expect them to be constantly waiting by their email or phone to instantly respond to you. Trust that they are earning their salary and doing the best they can amidst the numerous complexities like home schooling and load shedding. Avoid any tendencies you might have to micromanage while also making sure that you don’t ‘disappear’ on them; have periods in the day where your team know they can reach you and get support.
- Adapt how you communicate. It’s more challenging that ever for people to read between the lines. We can go for days, sometimes weeks, without seeing colleagues. And we no longer have the many informal opportunities – as we walk past someone’s desk or see them in the elevator – to check-in and see how work is progressing. You need to be far more deliberate in the way that you communicate. Goals, instructions and timelines need to be crystal clear. Check-ins will need to be planned – just get agreement from your team about how you can best communicate and how frequently as you don’t want to under do it or overdo it. During our 1-day programme, we explore many powerful communication techniques for keeping a virtual team inspired, productive and accountable.
- Get explicit buy-in and commitment from team members. The bystander effect – where everyone thinks that everyone else is doing what anyone could have but no one is actually doing it – happens even more in virtual teams. One simple, yet powerful, way of getting commitment is to have everyone summarise the actions they are responsible for at the end of a meeting. You can do it round-robin style and keep it short and sweet. When you attend our programme, I’ll take you through six additional ways you can ensure commitment and results every time (without any micromanaging).
Your leadership during this unprecedented time is something that you have absolute control over! I wish you a successful week ahead with many Key Steps to…
“be the difference that makes the difference”
About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s the Oscar of the speaking business.
Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’