November 2021 Leader Letter

Leading in a Changed World

Take away a few best practices as you move your leadership forward in these remote times.

By Renée Covino

There is much less personal contact with your team members; no longer do you casually connect in the breakroom or outside in the parking lot; all interactions are planned. This is the reality—literally the “virtual reality”—of much of today’s leadership, and it comes with a new set of rules and best practices. Here are a few tips from leadership experts in our brave new world:

Get comfortable using video conferencing technology. Meetings are enhanced when a leader uses chat rooms, polls, and breakout sessions to facilitate interaction. These can add vitality and variety to the meetings. Shorter, more frequent meetings are also becoming the new norm—along with meetings intended to make decisions, not just to exchange information.

Expect hybrid events, meetings, and training sessions to “live with us a long time,” according to Jennifer Jones, Rotary International’s president for 2022-23 and a speaker at the 2021 Virtual Convention. Leaders should prepare to “connect virtually and then amplify it with an in-person experience.”

Encourage your remote team to speak candidly, even if it is risky to do so, advises Keith Ferrazzi, author, founder/chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight, and a Golden Gavel Award recipient. Today’s leaders should use the fact that they’re virtual as an opportunity to be significantly more inclusive and open to new ideas and criticisms, which should start with you as the leader.

Practice psychological safety and empathy with your team. Hold virtual “bonding sessions” that are scheduled much the way physical work dinners were scheduled. They can be any time of day, but the intention is made clear: to connect with one another in a more meaningful way than through traditional meetings. A great question for each team member to consider during this is “what experiences growing up impact who we are today,” offered Ferrazzi. The effective leader should start off with his or her own story and bring a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. Why is this a good practice? Because once you create strong relationships within the team, individual members are more likely to be understanding when conflict arises, Ferrazzi explained.

Err on the side of trust. The pandemic changed so much, including the sense that we are “all in this together.” Companies were forced to trust their newly remote employees, and most employees responded, in kind, by being trustworthy. Don’t go backwards on this now. Let’s be bold in ways we never were before, starting with trust and mutual respect.

Additional Resources:

Leadership Amid the Pandemic

Do You Know How to Lead a Team Virtually? 6 Tips to Shorten the Distance