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What Top Leaders Are Asking Me about Leading in A Virtual World…and my answers

I get asked many questions about leading effectively, and now I get even more questions about leading effectively in a virtual world. The principles of leading have not changed but what has changed is our tactics and how we apply them virtually. Here are the top three questions I get asked the most.

How do I keep up team morale? Morale is always a hot topic, but especially in a remote work environment. We teach in Meaningful Alignment how important it is for leaders to remember to be empathetic, tolerant, compassionate, and patient, especially with those team members that are struggling. Those principles increase in a virtual setting. Leaders have to realize that some people don’t have the best environment to work from home. Added distractions from the lawn guy, barking dogs, and kids at home can be overwhelming. Showing understanding and tolerance as employees cope with all those situations will boost morale.  Simply saying, “I get it,” “I understand what you are going through,” or  “What can I do to help?” really motivates teams to work and to perform. 

Just last month, I was observing a COO conducting a team meeting remotely. She opened up the first 2-3  minutes of her team meeting by saying, “lots of people are feeling isolated right now. How are you doing?” Her team responded exceptionally well. Employees respond when their leader gives them a voice, hears them, and shows empathy. Doing this straightforward act demonstrated to her team that she cared and that meant the world to them. It drives morale. Dedicate more time to engage and have frequent touchpoints. Use collaborative communication. Some great ideas are breakfast with the boss, scavenger hunts, and table topics. These are all great ways to keep team members interested and engaged. Examine yourself and decide today what you can do at your next meeting to show you care about your team, show empathy, and connect. 

How do I manage poor performance? Managing performance is always tricky, even in normal circumstances. However, in this new normal, we still do the same work as we did in person, but now, of course, there’s a physical barrier and that’s the challenge. The meeting should happen one-on-one with cameras on so that you can connect. 

In some cases, this could be a challenge because your employee may be embarrassed or apprehensive to show you their home, even if it’s only a glimpse. One client told me, “I’m not so sure I want my boss to see my home.” Show empathy and try to connect. In a high-stakes conversation, as a leader, you need to see that individual. Start with connecting questions to open dialogue with the person to help gain insight into what is happening. Here are some excellent questions to get that dialogue going “how are you doing? How are things going? With what’s happening, how are you feeling about working virtually right now?” “What’s working, what’s not working for you?  In that opening dialogue, they may reveal some things you were not aware of and put context and texture to the performance issue. In Meaningful Alignment, we teach a 6-step process to follow when leaders have these types of conversations. It asks what is happening from their perspective, why do they think the performance is what it is. Listen to them first before bringing your viewpoint. 

There is a lot of talk about folks being distracted in the remote environment, but frankly, if they were sitting at their desks at the office, they would still have access to plenty of distractions. We have to give up the thinking and assumptions that they were highly productive because they were physically sitting in their workspace. Don’t get me wrong, some teams are, and some groups aren’t. Understand those challenges and help individuals navigate through them. Leaders must continue to address performance issues. When you do, show some empathy while holding them accountable. 

How do I get my team engaged during team meetings? Turn on the cameras. If someone refuses, keep requesting. If it’s your team, then go to them one-on-one. Explain to them that you need them to share with you what is going on. Tell them that you want to see their face and I want to connect. Ask them, “can you share with me while you’re not doing that? Is there a particular reason I need to be aware of? Don’t make a judgment or assumption. Work hard to understand why they are choosing not to have their camera on. Set expectations before the event that cameras will be on. Model the behavior you want. Your camera has to be on.  

Encouraging emotional connections between managers and employees is the key to better performance and improved employee engagement. 

Do you have a question for me? We have spent many years studying the world of conflict and helping people master not only meaningful alignment conversations but specifically applying these skills in a virtual environment. We would like to help you too! Feel free to reach out.  We would love to hear your stories. 

How well do you handle emotionally charged, high-stakes conversations? Take the Interpersonal Dialogue Profile™ assessment and find out! Click Here to Take our complimentary Assessment!


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