Three Essentials of Virtual Leadership

If there are 3 pillars that help leaders continue to build strong relationships while navigating the virtual world, it is these: Trust, Intention, and Empathy. And, serendipitously, the acronym TIE seems to fit as well. Tying binds things together, and relationships sure seem to need some binding these days.

I have worked with a couple of people recently who simply do not trust their workers unless they can see them in a cubicle at work. For remote employees during the work-at home period, they questioned IT about getting data such as login times, search histories, and all kind of similar stuff. They wanted evidence that people were working and not just screwing off. Leaders have to trust, especially in a virtual world. And workers have to feel they are trusted. They are already facing a number of challenges and anxieties working at home. Wondering if they are trusted does not need to be added to the list.

There has to be intentionality. One might inadvertently bump into another in the workplace and that would stimulate a discussion. Or simply seeing other people might trigger some conversations (or heaven forbid – a spontaneous kudo or two).  One has to intentionally plan relationship building moments in a virtual world. And sometimes a phone call works better so people can get a reprieve from all of the video conferencing.

The third pillar is empathy. When people are in the office, we have an idea of what is happening in their worlds (at least their worlds of work). At home, they may have a couple of kids doing remote learning, a spouse who needs a quiet workplace to do his or her work, aging parents semi–quarantined in senior living facilities who need some physical contact, and so forth. Working at home for many has been a blessing from commuting, but the parenting, schooling, and elder care roles have gotten more complex. Leaders understand there are higher levels of anxiety, fear and frustration these days, and have to acknowledge that those are legitimate feelings.

As the restrictions from Covid begin to ease, there will be more people returning to the workplace. However there are a number of surveys indicating that 50% or so may still work remotely, probably for some time to come. Trust, Intentions, and Empathy will continue to remain important guideposts for leaders to follow. And the good news – these three pillars will also prove helpful in leading people who have physically returned to the workplace as well.. Sounds like a real win/win proposition.

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