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04.05.2021Leaders and Digitalization

The key to overcoming obstacles in a virtual environment

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Are you amazed by how far you and your company has come in the last 12 months? Do you think back to the old ways of working and congratulate yourself on how versatile and flexible your working practices have become?

If this is the case, then you will know that a key attribute to adopting a remote first working environment is versatility.

But remaining versatile can still be challenging to a lot of individuals and companies as they navigate a new way of working to overcome the obstacles in a virtual environment.

The last 12 months have shaken traditional ways of working to the core and a remote first way of working is still being tested and adapted as companies forge ahead with strategic plans.

How to stay versatile in a virtual environment

If you are still looking to crystalise how to stay versatile in a virtual environment we would suggest you start thinking about how to do things remotely from the beginning, not thinking of a process and then thinking of how to adapt it remotely.

Rip up the rule book and start with a clean slate. That is what remote first means. ‘Remote’ is the starting point that all other working practices are based around.

Of course, we understand that even after a year of dealing with a pandemic, we are all creatures of habit. That includes how we work. Changing rules about how much home working is possible, wanted or allowed means we constantly have to adjust our work processes.

Being versatile means consciously accepting that work processes are adaptable on a weekly basis during these times.

Kill a rule

A handy tool is to “kill a rule”, where teams look at all the things they do and decide to get rid of anything that is redundant or isn’t ft for purpose anymore.

How does versatility help with overcoming obstacles in a virtual environment?

There are four main areas where a versatile leadership approach has helped in removing obstacles:

  • Physical – leaders have had to come up with alternatives to their physical workplaces. But ‘one-size’ hasn’t been able to fit all and leaders have had to find solutions to a myriad of different home-working solutions
  • Personal – being able to recognise the different levels of support needed in a team, and adapting their leadership approach, is an attribute a versatile leader has had to call on in abundance in the last year
  • Work – the last twelve months have seen many businesses having to pivot away from their traditional work streams in order to survive
  • Leadership – to be a versatile leader in a remote-first environment, leaders have had to balance the partly contradictory leadership roles of empowering the team, whilst also holding them accountable

Creating trust virtually and helping employees feel safe

Employees who are working remotely tend to lack social connection. All the ‘water cooler’ moments have been removed. In order to replace these, as a leader, you need to take time to connect personally and informally.

Over the last year we’ve been hearing leaders complain that they struggle to negate any ‘rumours’ that are generated when everyone is working from home. Previously they could pick up on any disquiet by listening to informal comments that might be made in passing in the corridor or whilst grabbing a coffee. It is also harder to read the nuances in a virtual meeting that might indicate unhappiness.

These unscripted and raw emotions help leaders to understand what is being discussed at different levels within a company but are harder to detect when teams are jumping from one Zoom call to the next.

To combat the above you need to reach out to team members individually and informally to help determine if there is anything wrong. Planning in time to do this will help employees feel safe and valued as well as building and maintaining trust.

Networking with other leaders

Networking with other leaders will help you to find out how others work remotely. You can also learn from other generations by mixing ages and hierarchies in networking groups. Generally Millennials are early adopters of easy free digital tools that teams could also use to make remote work easier so it’s worth listening to a multi-generational group to gain valuable insight.

CLP’s Remote First training programme

At CLP we offer a Remote First training programme that helps leaders explore their versatility in a virtual world and helps them to work in a remote-first manner. The training gives practical experience in how to best balance empowering your team, being future-orientated as well as staying up to date on operative issues.

It offers a human-focused virtual classroom experience that combines the best of modern technology with the uniqueness of interpersonal connections. The course challenges the assumptions of working virtually and focuses on creating a trustful online environment where leaders can feel safe in sharing and learning from each other.

Learn more about our Remote First course or our approach to customised leadership development solutions.

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