For leadership to thrive in an evolving virtual landscape, the skills of executive presence are increasingly relevant and important.
The rise of remote work together with the global outreach in a competitive environment demands that leaders exude competence, connection and confidence in the virtual realm. Digital platforms however present their own challenges on how one may effectively lead and form a connection with their teams remotely.
Challenges of virtual leadership.
Face to face interactions that allow leaders to build rapport and demonstrate authority through a physical presence has to now be established through virtual means.
The warmth of reaching out to people and extending support over a water cooler chat and close proximity has now to be done online, resulting in a sense of isolation and disconnect, further impacting morale and motivation.
Distraction and dispersal happen easily in a virtual meeting making it difficult to maintain or invite focus and engagement.
Assessing performance and monitoring progress is further challenged in a remote workplace, not to mention the trials of working across different time zones.
Communicating ideas, opinions or crucial information effectively can be taxing through technology, when getting through to someone successfully may be limited, diluting the overall impact. Overcoming communication barriers, portraying confidence, building rapport and keeping productivity high in a virtual setting requires a set of skills that are demonstrated through developing a virtual executive presence.
Recommended read: 11 Habits of Effective Leaders Who Master Executive Presence Like a Pro
Effective communication for remote leadership
Without the nuances that come from a physical presence, virtual communication limits the degree of expression, urging us to give particular attention to facial expressions, eye contact, listening, contribution, and quality of engagement.
Put out a well-defined agenda: The best ideas are brought forth where there is clarity on the agenda. Being vague on the purpose of the meeting does not allow for effective productive contribution.
Set clear expectations: Share the aim and objectives of the meeting to achieve high-powered results collectively. This keeps everyone on the same page with their eyes on the goal.
Structure the meeting. Provide structure to the meeting to help you monitor progress. Virtual meetings should be well-organised with clear points, allowing for productive discussions, active participation and time for questions and feedback.
Keep meetings on track. Meetings, even virtual, can go off-track and half an hour later you realise you are not going to be meeting the set objectives. Speak up to bring everyone’s attention back to the current schedule.
Seek input. Ask questions and acknowledge feedback. Involve everyone, making sure that the speaking is not being monopolised by yourself or others. Reach out to those who may be silent so they feel a sense of belonging, encouraging them to offer different perspectives and bring value.
Participation is key. Be well prepared on the agenda and clear on the points you want to make, and contribute. To simply show up is not enough.
Listen actively: Listen with attention and curiosity to tackle concerns, understand different viewpoints and respond impactfully.
Avoid distraction. Every time your attention even subtly falls away, it is felt and seen by others. Manage alerts, interruptions and notifications so that you are fully present and engaged.
Keep cameras on. For visual engagement keep videos on to form a connection. This enhances the quality of engagement, indicating you are present, interested and respectful
Maintain eye contact. Be aware that you are on camera, probably spotlighted, and use your expressions appropriately to best express your thoughts and words.
Look presentable. Being appropriately dressed and looking sharp as you log in is a sign of respect to others, gives weight to the call and impacts your own mental state positively.
Have a clean backdrop. Cluttered backgrounds take away from what you say. Keep your backdrop minimal and appropriate while depicting a part of your personality.
Build the relationship. Virtual meetings create a distance. The energy that one senses in a physical space with others is missing, creating a feeling of being separated, of not belonging. Consciously take the time and make the effort to get to know others, about their families, aspirations and concerns.
Monitor progress. It takes more to monitor progress when one is not visible on their desk. Set up systems and tools where progress can be updated and shared. Be mindful of getting into the zone of micromanagement. Focus on outcomes with scheduled progress reports as you provide autonomy to your teams.
Build trust. Form connections and bridge gaps that are created by physical distance. Follow through on your commitments to deliver results and show competency. Be transparent, show more of yourself and share your personal experiences and apprehensions, demonstrating vulnerability and a relatable side of yourself.
Be accessible. Make yourselves available for concerns, questions and support. One is willing to walk up to someone down the hall, but hesitant to initiate the need for a call. Let your available times and preferred means of contact be known so your team can reach you.
Check in regularly. No news is good news, but no news can be stagnancy, disruption or interference. Regular check-ins will help you oversee the team’s morale and level of motivation. Communicate regularly.
Schedule 1-on-1’s. There are those of us who are not able to share in a group, or may have some concerns that can only be brought up in confidence. One-on-one conversations allow you to show empathy, address specific problems and offer guidance, building a connection.
Have team building exercises. In the virtual world of remote work, understanding and identifying with the company culture is a challenge, in particular for new joiners.
You may find it useful: 7 Key Elements of Executive Presence for Leaders What Sets You Apart
To thrive in the workplace, for successful collaborations and for goodwill across departments, a sense of camaraderie and togetherness is to be cultivated. Schedule in time for activities that bring people good-fellowship. Isolation can be best withstood by nurturing a sense of community.
Speak to be understood: Articulate well with confidence, brevity and clarity. Convey your messages in a way that doesn’t allow for any ambiguity. With the physical presence missing where the impact of non-verbal is limited, allow for passion, voice power and inflection into your message.
Demonstrate resilience: In a crisis situation, communicate in good time, with clarity and transparency. Your team world would rather hear from you than from others. This is the time they need your support and need to know if they can rely on you and are not alone.
Provide updates and reassure them, demonstrating your ability to navigate adversity and adapt in changing circumstances. By showing resilience you are encouraging your team to have a positive outlook, inspiring them to overcome obstacles and pivot in unforeseen challenges.
Keep up with technology: It is increasingly a virtual world of remote work. Keeping up with current technology and learning of new tools and platforms is absolutely necessary.
Test your video, audio and connectivity beforehand so that you are not distracted troubleshooting a technological hitch in the midst of your presentation. Be adept at navigating your digital platform with ease, for this today is a core competency.
Offer burnout support: Lines between professional and personal life are often blurred in a remote work environment.
Working across different time zones and lack of a working day structure leads to burnout and exhaustion while coupled with isolation, often leading to mental and physical health concerns. Offer support by encouraging work-life integration and a healthy work day.
Successful remote leadership is to deliver results, while exuding confidence, authenticity and connection. It is to influence, support and inspire teams through a digital realm by developing and maintaining digital communication skills and a powerful digital leadership presence. This is the way to keep ahead of the ever-evolving landscape of a virtual world.
Live a full life, with confidence, dignity and gratitude