With great power, comes great responsibility – and this is certainly true in the case of business leaders.
Apart from inspiring, guiding and coaching others, the leaders of today need to keep upbeat with the new challenges of leadership. One of these is to find a way to lead effectively in a virtual environment as an increasing section of the workforce is moving towards remote working.
Being a virtual leader may seem overwhelming, but in reality, it doesn’t have to be. Leadership is all about how well you can maintain interpersonal relationships. Connectivity and communication are considered to be better with in-person interactions however, with little adjustments, it is possible to ensure successful virtual leadership as a long-distance leader.
Here are the essential skills that are needed for a virtual leader to be effective:
Strong online communication
Remotely leading teams can be challenging because there can be communication gaps. If you don’t adjust your communication accordingly, significant messages in your instructions, tone, and feedback may become lost in the translation.
The solution to this is to be clear and precise in your communication. Remove any confusion by providing adequate direction and detail. Maintain a decent balance in how you communicate. Too little communication can reduce employee engagement and productivity, while too much can be overbearing.
It is essential to set up one-on-one meetings with your team members to ensure that you are spending the necessary time required for discussing tasks and developing supportive relationships. When you offer them your availability, your employees will get the impression that you value the connection and are there when you need them.
Another important aspect is to utilize appropriate communication channels. You should also direct how they will be utilized. Discuss and decide when to use email, instant messages and webcam meetings. It is also crucial that you figure out when a quick announcement will do and when a long meeting is necessary. Remember, nobody likes being there for a long meeting when the message could have been simply communicated through an email.
Effective virtual communication will require that you manage your calendar well. Set-up scheduled structured meetings with your teams and individuals. This will help everyone follow a routine while not feeling like they are being micro-managed through random checks.
As a leader, you need to encourage others to collaborate. During remote working, it is likely that employees will become withdrawn from the group and struggle through the tasks alone. You can lead by getting your team members on board. Also, you may experience that not all team members are in the same time zone. In this case, you can maximize productivity by ensuring that there are some hours of overlap for all members of the team. This helps individuals get a sense of belonging even during remote work.
Organize better with the right tools
Being organized is crucial for being an effective virtual leader. Always chasing deadlines, metrics, and meetings can get you stuck in a recurring cycle of things to do. It is necessary that you use the right tools to organize tasks for yourself and others. Have realistic expectations and set achievable goals.
To do this, you will need to develop a plan and a schedule that is clearly communicated to everyone. This will develop a sense of transparency among the team members and will allow you the visibility to know who has time for a new task.
The tools that can come in handy include those for communication, document sharing, project management and others. This will require you to have some level of digital literacy. Ensure that you and your team have enough training to be able to use the tools efficiently.
Build Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence encompasses four core elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. They hold equal importance and are beneficial for both team members and leaders.
A leader who has higher emotional intelligence is more effective because he or she can build stronger relationships with others. This enables such a leader to empower team members, and encourage them to perform optimally.
As a virtual leader, the need to strengthen relationships remains the same, if not becoming more, as they enhance collaboration, culture and engagement levels in your company.
It is a good practice to develop your emotional intelligence continuously. Leaders with higher EQ are more successful in dealing with difficult situations. They manage to inspire others more and help others grow with them.
A virtual environment makes it challenging to read a person’s intent through their facial expressions, body language, and tone. To be able to lead with empathy, you will need to pay extra attention to tiny details like verbal and non-verbal cues. You can do this by, for instance, encourage team members to use a webcam so that you can see each other’s expressions and develop a connection.
In case one of your team members is experiencing difficulty with time management or adjusting to the remote setting, be a good listener and try to figure out a way to help them out. It may be the responsibility of the individual to perform well at their job, but you can guide them to the right path by connecting them to the resources they need to improve their skills.
One great way to build a support system is to introduce a partnering program in which new employees are paired up with senior ones. This mentor-mentee relationship can help your employees grow in various areas.
Honing these core skills can make you an effective leader, and can benefit both you and your team. As you become better as a virtual leader, you will notice that your work will become easier, and your team will perform better. If you don’t know how to improve these skills, join one of our courses today.
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