5 Strategies to Build Resilience While Leading Virtually
Leading virtually through disruption is tough. If you’re currently in that situation, there’s no easy way to get through it. It’s even more difficult if people are not on the same page, working in different spaces, dealing with their own family challenges related to the crisis, and you’ve got to ‘herd the cats’ to make something work for your organization. With my executive coaching clients, I’m calling this Virtual Leadership.
The good news is that this new style of leadership not only something you can learn and excel in, it’s also an opportunity to build a more resilient team. Here are 5 strategies to leverage Virtual Leadership to drive better performance through your team while building resilience and leading virtually.
1. Believe you can manage this way.
A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend with a daughter in high school. While Kory and I talked and laughed together at her kitchen table, Emma sat at the other end, clicking away at her laptop. When I asked what she was up to, she told me about an online class she was taking that had group projects, quizzes and papers due on Thursday and tests on Sunday nights. Bleeeeck. But if an enterprising 18-year-old can manage a group project leading virtually, so can you.
One of my global clients is in the midst of a restructuring. Getting leaders and teams aligned is something I previously believed could only happen in person. Not anymore. If we can create enough alignment to restructure a global company virtually, so can you. Think about how you CAN make the situation work without sacrificing productivity or quality. Do not lower your bar or think for one minute that you can’t lead virtually.
2. Leverage technology.
Zoom is a favorite of mine for the sheer versatility and ability to replicate things I generally do in person. There are many web meeting platforms to choose from but think about finding one that will allow you to share screens, co-present, write on a “white-board”, and use breakout “rooms” for larger meetings without disconnecting. Another thing to consider is instant messaging. Whether you use text, Slack, Google Chat, or another platform, the ability to reach out instantly can be invaluable in a virtual team setting. Again, don’t lower your bar. There is no reason you can’t accomplish everything you normally would in person leading virtually on Zoom.
3. Minimize tolerance for multi-tasking but forgive distractions.
The only way virtual work works is if, when on a call or video meeting, people are present and engaged. If multitasking has become the norm in your organization or if people do not use cameras on video meetings when they are remote, now is the time to change that for good. This is not a time for half-assed participation while checking email or editing documents. You need 100% of your team engaged and on-point when they’re together. Set your expectations clearly including the use of the camera. You can forgive a refrigerator or bed pillows in the background, hair in curlers, bunny slippers, and an occasional cat’s tail going by, but you can’t afford to have people disengaged. You can purchase a decent webcam for under $20. It’s worth every penny if you are leading virtually.
4. Don’t underestimate the need to reach out one on one.
Everyone deals with this kind of disruption differently and you can safely assume that the people on your team have varying degrees of emotion around what’s going on. The only way you will get a handle on where their heads are is to ask. Be sure to create a substitute for wandering past a cubicle or saying hello in the break room. That might mean a 5-minute phone call first thing every morning or a check-in by online chat during the day, but it’s important that when you’re asking people to come together in the midst of all their distractions at home, you are checking in with everyone frequently. You don’t want to be ‘big brother’ but you do want to give them a sense that you care and that you are there to remove obstacles for them. It’s hard to remove obstacles when you don’t know what they are. Ask.
5. Be intentional about leadership and inclusion.
It’s easy for people to crawl into their comfort zones when they don’t have to be at the office every day. If you want a virtual team to work as a team, be sure to invite involvement where you might not have otherwise. This is the time to go overboard making sure everyone is consulted and that multiple points of view are heard. Ask questions to verify understanding and invite dissent. You want to make sure that whatever direction the team goes in, everyone understands what it is and how you got there. Ensuring that people are included and aligned will go a long way towards the team being on the same page, and it’s a lot easier to lead a team that’s going in the same direction.