If you’re like many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced your organization to work remotely and embrace the virtual office.
Because of the current state of the world, practically everything is relegated to the digital environment. If you’re used to managing a team in an office setting, you might be thinking that you’ll need to adapt your approach to the new way of working.
Not so fast: When you’re leading virtually, your roles and responsibilities stay the same.
There are, however, a few different tactics you may want to prioritize to help your team adjust to “the new normal.” Try them out when you’re trying to demonstrate leadership virtually.
1. Establish a Routine for your Employees
Though some of your employees might transition to working from home seamlessly, others will no doubt have a harder time staying organized and productive in a new environment.
Right out of the gate, it’s vitally important to establish a routine that provides some semblance of order for your employees. Everyone is operating in an environment of considerable uncertainty. And with that uncertainty comes stress—which produces fear and makes it difficult to think clearly.
You can help settle those feelings by establishing a recurring weekly team meeting on a platform like Zoom. Make sure everyone has their cameras on, too, because being able to see co-workers promotes the connectivity and team bonding that many people have lost by staying home. Keep in mind that, for many members of the team, the office is a big part of their social lives.
You’ll also want to establish weekly one-on-one meetings with everyone on your team. Scheduling these meetings might seem like a minimal thing, but it’s actually hugely important. Your direct reports want other people to understand their environment and the circumstances they have to deal with.
As an added bonus, meeting with each of them in a face-to-face virtual setting is a great way to develop deeper relationships with team members and learn things that you never would in a group setting.
2. Confront the Proverbial Elephant in the Room
You can’t make the elephant in the room go away by ignoring it, pretending it’s not there, or trying to explain it away.
When you’re leading a team that’s working remotely, always be thinking about the position from which they’re operating. For example, some folks on your team might be wondering whether their job is safe. Will the company be able to survive with everyone working from home? Will there be layoffs?
You need to confront the negative emotions and sentiments that your team is harboring by using Tactical Empathy™ to address them proactively. Make a deliberate attempt to articulate their perspective.
Your employees, at some level, are in survival mode. Everyone who is in survival mode is operating like a hostage taker. They feel like they’re backed into a corner and have no options. In this state, success-oriented thinking is out of their grasp.
Using Tactical Empathy, you might say something like this: Things are going nuts for you right now. This is just overwhelming you to a degree that you never really thought was possible. Are you starting the obvious? Yes! When you deal with the negatives head-on, they become less fearsome.
3. Demonstrate That You’re Putting Your People First
When trying to demonstrate leadership virtually, many leaders make the mistake of failing to put people first. This is why it’s so crucial to have those recurring one-on-one meetings mentioned earlier. It’s a clear sign to all of your employees that they matter on an individual basis.
The goal is to make them feel like they have a deep sense of ownership and belonging within the organization. By taking time out of your schedule each week for some virtual face time, that’s easily accomplished.
The trick here is that you need to be consistent. You won’t be able to create a highly engaged, highly empowered remote employee by speaking to them for an hour. This needs to be a constant effort. You need to think about the cumulative effects of weekly meetings as opposed to a one-and-done type of mentality.
Even if there’s nothing on your agenda, the meetings must still go on. The fact that you’re showing up and demonstrating that you care makes all the difference in the world.
It bears repeating: For the most part, there’s no difference between how you should lead in an office setting and how you should demonstrate leadership virtually. Check out The Black Swan Group Leadership Guide to learn more about what you can do to reach your full potential as a leader—even in a completely digital world.