When the pandemic hit, managers accustomed to having their employees under one roof suddenly found themselves leading virtual teams. That sudden shift occurred almost two years ago, and with it, video quickly replaced the conference room.
Despite the challenges of virtual leadership, great managers have learned how to maintain connectivity and engagement to their teams by adopting new behaviors.
Here’s how they do it.
*Overcommunicate. *Beyond the traditional daily huddles and one-on-ones, great leaders replaced those spontaneous water cooler conversations with intentional check-ins throughout the day.
For these quick touch-base communications, it’s truly the thought that counts, so using instant messaging is fine. Infuse some fun throughout the day by sending a goofy joke, a motivational quote, or a funny meme relevant to the day to convey that out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.
Dress for success. There’s a new spin on this sage advice: always work camera-ready. Great leaders model professionalism, grooming and dressing for work the same way they always have.
Even if the company dress code is casual, follow this golden rule: if you’re not comfortable wearing it to the office, don’t wear it for a video call.
Keep your camera on. Today’s leaders understand that making their team look at a black box doesn’t support connection and engagement.
If you must be off camera, upload a profile picture, and mitigate perceptions that you’re unprepared or disinterested by letting others know why you’re incognito.
Look at the camera often. When we meet in a conference room we look at the person speaking. While it’s natural to look at the faces on the screen, today’s most effective leaders mindfully look at the camera’s lens when others are talking. It’s the video equivalent of looking eye to eye.
Demonstrate active listening by intentionally looking at the camera. It’s awkward at first, but with practice it becomes habit. Encourage your team to do the same by making it fun catching each other working on this new behavior.
*Start every conversation going beyond “how are you?” *Great leaders understand that it’s in the first few minutes of a conversation where they have the greatest opportunity to empathize with an employee.
For example, if one of your employees is caregiving for elderly parents, ask how they’re faring in the face of these demands, and share your own self-care strategies when you’re under extreme stress.
When unplanned events upset the status quo, great leaders successfully adapt. With a few behavior modifications, your virtual team will thrive in the new world of work.