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“Your Priorities, Your Program” Leadership

Dr. Richard A. Vaillancourt
E-Mail: doctorrv16@gmail.com

Welcome to our monthly “Your Priorities, Your Program” Leadership Blog!  Each month, we will focus on one timely and relevant Leadership Priority. Our first month’s topic is Virtual Leadership.

A virtual team leader needs to be able to utilize technology to communicate and collaborate remotely. This could mean using e-mail, video calling, text messages, IM/chat programs, or, most likely, a combination of all of those and more in any given day. Our pandemic experience has clearly transitioned the way we lead, as we pivot and adapt to work environments that limit physical presence and contact with one another. This poses significant challenges for us as leaders.

In my work with leadership teams, I interact regularly with Credit Union leaders both in management and board environments and invariably some of their greatest challenges are linked to the very real “distance” virtual connections present. They no longer have the same opportunities to interact in-person with one another and with those they lead, often impacting what they perceive as their leadership effectiveness. Virtual leaders still need to inspire workers and help teams accomplish their goals … but in a different way than what they have been accustomed to.

We can adjust our virtual interactions in the following ways:

  • To avoid losing your tone, instruction and feedback, be clear and precise, providing sufficient detail and direction to avoid being ambiguous and avoid any possible confusion.
  • Use the appropriate cadence when you communicate with your teams. Too much communication may come across as overbearing and untrustworthy while too little communication may risk decreasing productivity and employee engagement (something I am passionate about)
  • Focus on dedicated time and structure to discuss projects, build connections and support your team’s development journey. When you’re available as a leader, your team will feel you value the relationship!
  • Set expectations on how various communication channels are to be used. Understand when a meeting is necessary versus a quick announcement, as nobody likes attending hour-long meetings when the question could be addressed more efficiently in an email.
  • You can promote effective teamwork by encouraging collaboration. It can be easy for remote team members to become withdrawn and push through tasks alone.
  • Building stronger connections and emotional intelligence will improve organizational culture and trust. Emotional intelligence has four components: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. All are equally critical for virtual leaders and team members.
  • Learning how Emotional Fitness can bring success to your virtual organization by focusing on five E-Fitness Coaching tools: Power Listening, Learning from Experience, Group Dialogue, Workscale and Storytelling.
  • Pay extra attention to verbal and non-verbal cues by encouraging use of webcams to see facial impressions and build virtual connections. Be aware that some team members might have challenges adjusting to remote work … listen and understand how you can help.
  • Prioritize organization by setting realistic expectations, creating online schedules to track progress and being transparent with team members.
  • Maximize virtual tools, including communication channels, document sharing sites and project management software. As this requires digital literacy, be prepared to ensure your team understands how to use the tools.

Our world is changing and in many cases has forced us out of our leadership comfort zones but you will be heading in the right direction if you focus on these and other Virtual Leadership tools as we transition our work environments.

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