Leading in a (newly) virtual world

Updated: Mar 19, 2020


I've often said, and many peers have concurred: "With my mobile phone, computer and WiFi, I can work from anywhere!" As a consultant, that's certainly true. And in my former corporate life, that was often true. But many businesses are not that fluid. Business is conducted in-person. Certain activities must be fulfilled from an office, a manufacturing site, or a shipping dock.


Enter COVID-19 and the rapidly changing guidelines and edicts being enacted. We are becoming a nation (and even a globe) who are shifting to fully virtual workplaces for a period of time. Most of us are used to 1 or 2 people at a time working virtually for a just a day or two. But few have experienced an extended period of virtual working, for not just a couple individuals, but for the majority of the workteam. Adding to it, this work-from-home environment coincides with schools and daycares sending kids home and extending breaks. It is stressful, it is disconcerting, and it is here.


We need to rethink how we connect and engage with our teams, our customers & suppliers, and our networks. My biggest piece of advice right now to business leaders: Set some norms for yourself, your teams, colleagues, customers and clients.


These norms should include:

  • How and when you engage. Will it be via phone or video call? Will you have defined meeting times or checkpoints or will it be ad-hoc? Will you meet in-person and adhere to a 6-foot social distance? Set some manageable structures for yourself and your teams.

  • How progress and success are measured. Many, many people are worried about "doing their job" and, frankly, about keeping their job. And, with markets in turmoil, dramatic demand changes to many industries (travel and hospitality, for one), people are right to be concerned. Consider redefining what success looks like for today, this week, this month.

  • How open items - tasks, proposals, contracts, offers - are managed. This is a concern both internally and externally. Is a task or priority still critical? Has something else taken precedence? Can you still honor that open proposal or does it need to be removed/revised? Be clear on what is / is not still important and/or able to be fulfilled.

  • Your expectations on availability and responsiveness. Everyone is juggling. And for those who are working from home while also unexpectedly managing small children underfoot or supervising schoolwork, priorities and demands are shifting minute-to-minute. They may not be able to answer your phone call right away. Or get a task done in the next 15 minutes. Set some expectations regarding availability and responsiveness. Maybe the normal 8-to-5 workhours aren't realisitic, but providing a response within 12 hours is. Be creative and supportive and realistic and clear.

  • Commit to honesty and openness. This should always be a norm. In our fluid environment, this is even more critical. So, be honest and open about what you do and don't know about business plans. About your own personal and business situation. (Are you working from home, tending an elderly parent, or supervising schoolage children?) About the fluidity of the current work environment. Be as open and candid with others as you would like them to be with you.

  • And, most importantly, how you support each other. Ask for help. Offer help. Be a beacon of hope and support.

Trust and Transparency are Critical.

Trust and transparency are critical, now more than ever. The environment is changing and yet we are still Open for Business. Let me know how Progressio can help you thrive in this new environment.




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