The COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for the biggest shift in work settings in most parts of the globe. Since 2020, many employees who could do their job remotely made the transition from working in the office or place of business or to working from home.
This change is expected to remain this year and, possibly, even in the following ones.
Although most workers were able to make the transition smoothly, many needed the help of their supervisors or managers.
As a result, supervisors, managers, and all leaders needed to develop a variety of strong virtual leadership skills.
Important Skills All Virtual Leaders Should Have
Providers of leadership coaching in Dubai say that leaders have the same roles and responsibilities whether they are in physical offices or virtual ones. However, there should be differences in the way you carry them out.
Moreover, you need to develop new virtual leadership skills or polish and update your current ones to ensure they meet the needs of your virtual team and that you stay the great leader you are.
Below are the five virtual leadership skills you need to develop and master to become a better, successful leader in a virtual work setting:
Many employees who are working remotely for the first time can feel disconnected and lonely as they go about their job in their home offices.
These emotions can cause them to become disengaged and separated from you, their co-workers, and the company’s mission.
You can prevent your remote team from being overwhelmed by these emotions by communicating with them regularly and meaningfully. This means working on your communication skills.
Communicating effectively with your virtual team starts by being more organized. Begin by scheduling regular meetings and setting expectations beforehand, such as having everyone turn on their camera and minimizing chat messaging.
Also, you have to work on your skills in making meeting programs. This is because if you don’t have an agenda, team and one-on-one meetings can get off track easily. To be a good virtual leader, you need to always have a clear direction for the subjects, objectives, and action items.
Additionally, active listening is a key component of communication. As such, you have to develop this skill to assure your employees that they can talk to someone who will listen and is non-judgmental.
Keep in mind that regular and profound communication helps keep employees motivated and informed. This, in turn, can lead to better work quality and increased productivity.
2. Use of the right communication technology and methods
Virtual workspaces have a variety of communication technology at their disposal. As the leader, you have to know which ones to use at the right time.
To use the right channel, you have to know how to match the medium with your message. Below is a guide that can help you out:
- Video calls. Regular meetings, job interviews, and training sessions are best conducted through video conferences. This method is more engaging than audio calls and facilitates better collaboration, communication, and learning.
- Instant messaging. Slack, Skype, Google Chat, and other instant messaging apps are best for quick communication needs, such as asking questions and coordinating schedules. It is also the ideal tool for checking in with your employees and sharing inspiring and funny messages.
- Use this tool to communicate something that will be referenced later on. Email is the best channel for sending detailed messages, instructions, or directions.
- Audio or phone calls. Calling someone is the best option for resolving conflicts and engaging in sensitive conversations that can’t be done in person.
Finding the right medium for communicating with your virtual team may take some trial and error. Give yourself some time to master this particular skill.
Showing genuine care to your employees is crucial in developing trust. This is one of the main reasons why being empathic is a key skill all leaders must hone.
As a virtual leader, start by understanding and developing empathy with each of your team locations. You have to be aware of the challenges your employees will face as they work from home and how you can help them manage these hurdles.
These difficulties can include delivering projects within the given time frame, working with people in different time zones, and cultural and language barriers.
To be an effective virtual leader, you have to know each of your employee’s specific challenges and provide the necessary support to help them address these appropriately.
Additionally, handling a virtual team also means practising empathy when your employees do not respond to your emails or instant messages immediately. By being patient and not jumping to conclusions regarding the delay, you can help cultivate an environment of trust and sincerity.
4. Demonstrating support
Showing your support to your employees doesn’t mean helping them out only in times of difficulties. There are other ways for you to do this even if there is no emergency or dire need.
Start by informing your virtual team about your availability beforehand. Let them know the certain times or days that you can spend more time talking with them so that they won’t feel they are disturbing you.
Also, schedule regular one-on-one meetings. Allot 30 to 45 minutes for these conferences to have sufficient time to talk about their current projects and touch on their professional development.
During these meetings, ask your employees about their goals and what you can do to help them succeed.
Lastly, always acknowledge your team members individually. Recognize their hard work and accomplishments during group meetings since doing so can boost their confidence and encourage them to continue being productive.
Finally, your virtual employees must feel they can exercise authority to some degree to ensure they can complete their work or projects.
Since you and your team are working remotely, there will be times that your staff won’t be able to get a quick reply from you. To avoid delays, you have to let your employees know that they can make some decisions and that you will support them.
You can also empower your virtual team by fostering shared leadership.
Look for ways to involve members you trust in leadership roles to boost their commitment, build their skills, and enable your team to be more adaptive to change.
You can nurture shared leadership in your team by giving responsibility to one or two of your members to special projects, such as training new employees or assigning them as mentors.
When you share leadership, you can increase employee engagement and, at the same time, take some of the burdens off your shoulders.
If you are leading a team and have made the switch to working from home, be the best leader you can be by developing and honing these five important virtual leadership skills.
Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.