Is virtual great leadership possible in virtual world? Working in different locations puts more demands on leadership. Communication without all 3 channels (words, facial expressions, body language) puts leadership skills in test.
Covid-19 has put a lot more of us in distance leading situations. Whereas in the beginning all were more alert and accepted better the shortcomings, today we no longer can be on high alert mode. The new norm (I believe that after Covid-19 there will be a lot more distance working) makes the landscape of leadership a lot different. To succeed as a leader means that one needs to ensure his/her ability to lead people without having all channels available. Leadership is about getting people to deliver results. Leaders need to understand the needs people have and to motivate them. It can be done, but it requires doing couple of things in very precise ways.
When leaders do the following things well, they can reach business results and employee satisfaction levels just as in the past. The first thing to pay attention to, is listening. In live situations we can notice, when someone has something to share or would like to ask something. In virtual world these non-verbal messages are often lost, if cameras are of, then they are certainly lost. This means, that the leader must create a habit of ensuring that people speak up. The solution starts with asking people targeted questions. Target your question to individuals by asking each of them a personal question like “Kari, what kind of challenges do you see in this decision from training perspective?”. Then give the person true time to answer, which means that you allow some silence.
Delivering emotions through digital meetings is much harder. Your enthusiasm is not getting through like it does in face to face situations. People need emotions and motivation to succeed. If their needs are not fulfilled, they will slowly but surely start to go down in their results. HBR article in March 2021 discussed about the power of money. They discussed what really helps people to motivate themselves. The answer is very clear and it works in every situation. In virtual world the answer is more important than ever. It is getting people to understand the “why”, the purpose of what they are doing. This discussion is crucial and it must be an ongoing discussion. Refreshing the purpose in your meetings by stating it improves motivation and results. HBR states that about half of the meeting time should be spent on purpose and impact. That way people generate the motivation needed, even you cannot deliver the support as you could have done in F2F meeting.
If your lead people with numbers, you don’t get the impact you need. Yes, numbers are needed, but they don’t get the job done. When you are talking about numbers, there too must be one element in place. Every set of numbers must be in visual form. Graphs are needed both to improve understanding and to create emotions. The most successful leaders connect each graph with the purpose. That is the way to build motivated and high performing teams during the era of distant working. The good news is, that once you learn to master listening and purpose based motivating in distance leadership, you don’t need to change it when you lead people F2F!
If leaders fail in delivering leadership service following the discussed processes, they are likely to see two things to happen. It does not become visible over night, so it is not easy to see. Commitment and engagement will start to erode. This leads to lower productivity after a while (6 + months). And then you will start to see your star employees to leave your organisation. Making sure that you master listening and purpose based leadership is not an option, it is an absolute must!
To be a star leader during the times of distance leadership, you need to master your own emotional intelligence skills. You need to understand what in you strengths helps you to become better listener. You need to learn how to become more people oriented leader in order to help people to build intrinsic motivation. To know more about yourself, you can choose one of two paths; trial and error or having a trained emotional intelligence coach to support you. Trial and error is time consuming and can lead to losing some of your most valuable employees.
With emotional intelligence coach you can learn to implement new approaches in very short period of time. With a proper assessment, you get insight to your hidden strengths. You can start to use your personality in the best possible way in order to deliver the leadership needed for future success. Every crisis presents opportunities for leaders who master the demands of that situation. This happens in every field of business. It is for you to choose between failure and success.
After helping over a thousand leaders, I know what needs to be done and how that can be done in different situations. Get in touch and ask me.
Your partner in making success happen, Kari I. Mattila, emotional intelligence advisor