The Helplessness of Virtual Leadership

The Helplessness of Virtual Leadership

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Do the following seem familiar?

  • Left the team a message on a group but no one responded?
  • Asked for a submission by a deadline but you didn’t get acknowledgment from the late submitters?
  • Impromptu leave taking as FYIs instead of applications?
  • Feeling tempted to micromanage to continue the tradition of presenteeism in the team
  • Poor back and forth communication in a team meeting making you feel like you are running a ‘one man show’

You are definitely not alone! We talk about all the pros and cons of remote work where the pros often outweigh the cons and a WFH culture is definitely here to stay, with or without Covid. Hence, looking at building the competencies needed to manage people and teams virtually will be a skill to retain and not just a temporary quick fix to manage a situation.

Some of the things that I have found that work, through my experience of working with individuals, teams and leaders at Human Dynamic are:

  1. Acknowledge that feeling in your gut. If you sense that there is a disconnect between you and the team, then most likely, there is a disconnect. If you feel your team members are lost, then most likely they are lost. Help them organize what’s on their plate, how to prioritize actions and how to overcome the hurdles of collaboration.
  2. Assume positive intent: The reason they may not be replying to you on a platform could be a shyness or a sense of not having achieved enough to report in. So, before you jump to assume malice, callousness or poor intent, think of it as anxiety, insecurity and lack of confidence. A one on one here may be helpful to get the answers you need and to get the team buy in that will help others along the way.
  3. The team may be reflecting your own insecurities. Check in with yourself to understand are you synced in or synced out yourself? Even though virtual, the team can always sense when you are plugged in or plugged out and hence pulling yourself together before pulling them towards you would be the key.
  4. Revisit the stance that you are a virtual leader, not a remote leader. The fine line of difference between the two is that while you be distant, you aren’t away from them. And they need to know this, especially when they would be reaching spaces of emotional fatigue or hitting a plateau of performance at work. Deliberate on how can you be more visible, accessible and present for them.
  5. Facilitate effective return to work. Unlike before, return to work no longer means resuming work after a sabbatical or a medical leave. It can mean getting back to work in a physical manner after working from home or mentally returning to work after having had multiple chores to be taken care of during the day itself. As a leader, it would be extremely important for you to understand what helps the team be mindfully present at work and help them achieve tangible results to increase the sense of productivity which will indirectly boost a feel good factor as well as performance.

Are you looking at enhancing your virtual conversation with your team?  Reach out to us at for learning programs for yourself and your team!

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