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How to Lead In Our New Reality Of The Virtual Workspace

Lead Virtually

“I was good at this before… or so I thought... I thought I had a handle on this. I thought I was the right guy for this job. I earned it, I put in the time, and I finally got the nod. And now this happens.”

My client just made Partner. He felt confident and comfortable in his new role. He wanted to get ahead, and show the firm that he was the right choice. And he was, until COVID hit, and everything was pulled out from under him.

He didn’t think the pandemic would last... it couldn’t really. Could it?

Six months later and no change in sight. My client went from confidently running his team in person to fumbling with technology, and feeling lost at the captain’s wheel in the middle of the perfect storm.

“I don’t know how to run a meeting over zoom” he shouted at me, completely frustrated. “I’m an in person guy, it doesn’t translate through the screen!”

I listen, and can understand his frustration. He’s not making it up. Some of the best leaders around use charisma and energy as their secret weapon. It’s hard to convey that through the screen. For some, it’s the feeling of quiet confidence and trustworthiness that they bring into a room with them, and they haven’t figured out how to translate that into the digital world.

I am seeing it with most of my clients right now. Even the seasoned vets who have been running teams and firms for years are finding themselves in uncomfortable waters. They thought all of this Zoom, work from home, millennial stuff was just a flash in the pan. It turns out it’s here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. If you are one of the people that feels this is terrifying, don’t worry, this doesn’t make you deficient, it makes you like everyone else struggling to adapt on the fly.

Some people are naturals at transitioning to the virtual workspace and others are just better on the ground. Yes, this means you’re going to feel the effects of these changes more than others, but you got through prep school, how bad can some video calls be right?

There are good things about this new world too. Sometimes a change in perspective is all that’s needed. A shift in your mindset, the use of your imagination and curiosity will get you far.

Let me explain.

Before you start your next virtual meeting try these 3 step

1.What’s my strategy?

Preparing for strategic meetings used to be second nature. But nowadays, preparing well for virtual interaction is absolutely key. The new normal of communicating virtually can be more challenging. Not only do technical challenges come into play, people are harder to “read” over video. Their tone, facial expressions and body language that we rely on for effective communication in person are more difficult to give and receive virtually; especially in group settings. Without the benefit of being in person, and picking up these nuances can be more difficult to steer in the moment virtually. As a result, communicating virtually requires more strategic planning because you can’t rely as much on human connection to carry you.

Before every exchange, take time to think about your audience and the context of the exchange. Then write down your objectives and agenda. Leaders spend more time preparing for and reflecting on discussions to ensure they correctly contextualize information. They strive to create organizations with the right information flows and participation to be effective.

2. One on One is important.

We are all busy, and it’s more efficient to have group Zoom calls but it’s also important to foster one-to-one connections online across group members. One strategy is to reserve part of a day in your week for shorter one-on-one virtual meetings that foster individual connections among team members. Start your one-on-one’s connecting personally with each individual. Try leading with empathy and patience. Especially in a crisis, we cannot forget that we are all human – and tapping into that humanity is the foundation of leading in such uncertain times.

Trying to understand your team as individuals is important if you’re going to help them navigate their unique situations. You don’t have the benefit of being able to casually bump into each other in the hallway. Being virtual requires a plan to create space for these chance encounters to occur on purpose. You can’t help if you don’t know what they need help with, and that requires spending extra time reaching out and listening. If you do this well, you just might find yourself building deeper relationships.

3. How one shows up to a meeting can dictate how the meeting goes.

When the plane hits bumpy airspace we tend to look to the flight attendant to know if we should be panicked or not and what actions we might take next. . As leaders, we are in a similar position. Our employees are looking to us to see how we should conduct ourselves in this new set of virtual circumstances. The way we show up in our Zoom meetings and our energy levels are mirrored back by our employees. If you show up stressed and worn out- the last one to jump on the call, clearly distracted by your last meeting- even virtually - your team will pick up on your energy and that will set the tone for your meeting. Instead try being the first one there. Talk with your team while you wait to get started. There’s no more water cooler talk, no more grabbing a drink on Thursdays after work. This is where you get to know your team, and show them you respect them enough to show up for them by getting enough sleep and remaining grounded and in control. You feeling in control makes them feel in control, and it sets the tone from the top. Maybe they’ll start showing up for their team the same way. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating: Self care is not selfish if it lets you show up more fully for the people in your life.

These tips may be simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the best because you can actually achieve them on a consistent basis.

Try these Zoom meeting tips and check back for more ways to be more effective with greater impact and more ease.

Try it and report back.


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