Separated in space and often in time (zones), virtual leaders may struggle to communicate effectively, stay aligned, and achieve desired goals.
It’s easy for false assumptions, misplaced priorities and unmet expectations to emerge when working virtually. Managing these mix-ups is a critical challenge of virtual leaders.
To address these challenges, here are tips to improve your virtual leadership:
- Master Technology – when you are separated by space and time, technology is the key connector. Leaders must convey enthusiasm and inspire followers electronically which requires mastery of technology skills. How effectively you use various technology tools makes a difference in your leadership impact. Invest time to learn how to get more out of the tools you rely on to lead virtually.
- Bridge the Distance – overcome the barriers of space and time differences by intentionally staying connected to people and information. Everyone creates bridges differently. For example, you may write personal notes of appreciation that builds bridges to people. You may create an informal network of people from various departments that builds bridges to critical information. You cannot neglect bridge building or you risk erosion of your ability to lead from a distance.
- Check for Understanding – the gap between what you mean and what someone else hears gets magnified when separated by space and time. One of the most effective tests for understanding is to ask the person you are speaking with to repeat back to you what they heard you say. However, when you are communicating remotely through email or IM this is more difficult. Make time for verbal validation when you are sharing critical facts, defining outcomes or communicating a message that matters.
Leaders must overcome the challenges that separation in space and time create. By mastering technology, bridging the distance and checking for understanding leaders who are in virtual environments stay aligned, communicate better and achieve their strategic goals.