LEADERSHIP RESOURCES BLOG

Guidance on leadership development & strategic planning.

Virtual Leadership Coaching: How to Face the Challenges of Limited Interaction

By Leadership Resources 06/25/2020
Woman presenting at a Leadership Resources virtual leadership conference

Regardless of whether the world returns to normal or adopts a “new normal,” change remains constant. The transformation of the physical workplace to the virtual office has been in the making long before the current pandemic, and will only accelerate moving forward. This technological shift has created countless opportunities and innovations, but it comes with a number of costs, too — most notably the lack of physical interaction. Humans are social creatures, after all, and sharing a physical location undoubtedly facilitates communication, strengthens interpersonal bonds, aids in education, and more.

That said, there is still plenty to be gained in the virtual space for everyone, including leadership coaches and their students. Let’s discuss how limited interaction presents challenges in terms of leadership coaching, and how virtual leadership coaching can break through these obstacles and bring its own value to the table.

How to Overcome Virtual Work and Learning

Embrace Connective Technology

As isolating as these times may be, consider how fortunate many of us are to have access to multiple forms of virtual interaction. Not only can we text and call one another — now, we can conduct prolonged online meetings of various sizes via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, and other proprietary video conferencing software. These tools might not replace the feeling of a physical workplace, but they act as a close proxy, allowing coaches and teams to have real-time discussions, share documents, ask questions, and even socialize.

Of course, these tools are only valuable if everyone in a given organization has access to them. So, virtual coaches must ensure that they, as well as their teams, share the same technology and know how to properly use it. Otherwise, some members may get left out, and/or significant time and effort may get wasted troubleshooting. In short, social technology is a virtual coach’s best friend, and the foundation for a strong online leadership development program, so long as everyone is on the same page.

Adjust Frequency and Format of Meetings Accordingly

If you are moving all or most of your operations to the virtual space, your organization will naturally take on a new rhythm. People work at different paces, and this fact may get amplified if they are working remotely. That said, there are occasions that require all team members to unite their thoughts and efforts. But it’s one thing to wrangle several people who share an office into an in-person meeting — it’s another thing to conduct a virtual meeting where every member must join remotely. 

In other words, leadership coaches may need to change how they schedule and run meetings and leadership training seminars to account for this physical separation. Virtual meetings might have to occur more frequently to maintain accountability, they may need to be shorter or longer depending on remote workflow, and they might need to be structured differently to ensure all voices are heard.

Think “Physical” Distance, Social Cohesion

Communication and performance management go hand in hand. The term “social distancing” has taken hold in the global lexicon, but some have argued that “physical distancing” is both more accurate and more helpful in these times. Indeed, humans can socially interact without sharing a physical space, and in fact, this social interaction may be more important now than ever before. This sentiment applies to a company’s culture, too.

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Business leaders and coaches must redouble their efforts to reach their teams on a personal level, especially when physically separated. The culture doesn’t merely cease to exist when the office is empty, after all. People make up the organization and good leaders help keep it together and strengthen it. Do not let limited physical interaction prevent this social cohesion. Before, during, and after virtual meetings, make sure to discuss matters outside the scope of work; hold weekly virtual social/team-building events; have fun with filters and backgrounds during video chats; the list goes on. 

Leadership is Not Limited to a Location

Making the change from a physical to a virtual workplace (even if it’s temporary or partial) is bound to yield some growing pains. That said, the pursuit of your company’s goals and leadership development remains firm. And with the advent of today’s technology, you don’t have to slow down or skip a beat when it comes to growing your business and its leaders as long you are adaptable and forward-thinking.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.

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Don’t Lose Ground While Working Remotely: Invest in Virtual Leadership Development

By Leadership Resources 04/28/2020
Woman working with headphones

Business analysts have long anticipated a major shift in the way many of us work — namely, the rise of remote work. Indeed, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 already saw approximately 7 million remote workers in the U.S. (3.4% of the population). Several industries have been making this transition for years, while others have been slower to adapt. However, COVID-19 has acted as a powerful catalyst in the realm of remote work; in a matter of days, millions of people either lost their jobs or had to suddenly shift gears and start working from home full-time.

Even for businesses that don’t necessarily require a physical office space, this rapid change can prove challenging. Virtual interactions have a different flavor than in-person communication. Still, those companies fortunate enough to continue operations during this pandemic must make the most out of an uncertain situation. In fact, now is the perfect time to reconfigure and strengthen your strategic efforts, including your leadership development protocols.

The Benefits of Virtual Leadership Development

Adapting to A New Kind of Workplace

Optimizing your leadership development program for remote work begins by properly implementing the right technologies for your organization. As of now, text-based communication software like Slack and video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are becoming essential components for remote teams. Of course, it’s not enough to merely have these tools at your disposal — you must ensure that every member of your team has access to these tools and can use them in proper coordination with one another. 

Keeping team members on the same page when physically distant is a major role for your business’ leaders. As current leaders rise to the occasion, they inherently pass on their virtual leadership skills to developing leaders. A study performed by Gordon Schmidt in Industrial Organization Psychology points to three specific areas of emphasis for virtual leaders.

  • Virtual leaders must clearly deliver task-relevant information, as certain social cues may be lacking from remote interactions
  • Communication should occur more frequently and regularly when working remotely, as this allows teams to reconfigure actions and gain deeper understanding
  • Virtual leaders should do their best to maintain and strengthen personal relationships, as a lack of regular physical interaction can lead to decreased accountability, feelings of isolation, and misunderstandings

Actively Developing Leaders Outside the Office

Not all leadership development occurs through osmosis, of course. As businesses shift to remote work, they must continue to play an active role in developing their leaders. Organizations that have already enrolled team members in an online leadership development program are naturally at an advantage here. Workers can continue attending virtual meetings and classes, track their performance online, receive daily affirmation notifications, and more.

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However, some online leadership development training also includes in-person sessions. In the absence of these physical gatherings and one-on-one discussions, your organization must make an effort to conduct the same interactions virtually. This requires proper planning and communication, so team members understand when and how to continue their training over video, audio, and/or text chat. There should also be backup plans in place in the event that certain technologies experience difficulties or cannot be acquired by certain employees.

Synthesizing Virtual and In-Person Leadership Lessons

No one knows exactly when, or even if, we will return to business as usual. It’s possible that this sudden economic and social disruption will simply accelerate the already-surging global trend of remote work. If so, organizations must integrate developing leadership in the workplace with developing leadership outside of it. In other words, the methods and lessons learned from both in-person and virtual leadership development programs must transfer seamlessly between one another as the line between virtual leaders and tangible leaders continues to blur. As such, remote leadership training seminars shouldn’t look all that different from those held in a communal space.

With the right technology, strong communication ethic, and commitment to continual leadership development, you can keep your organization on track during this uncertain time. Better yet, you might end up ahead of the curve.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.

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