For many of us, we may not have imagined ourselves as virtual leaders when we entered the accounting field. But in the last few weeks, circumstances have called on us to make changes quickly and rise to the challenge. So, while you’re personally adjusting to WFH life and dealing with the impact of cancelled plans and adapting to the “new normal”, let’s check in to see how you’re doing as a leader under these new circumstances. If you answer these questions honestly, it will give you an insight as to where you’re doing well and what you can change to make your virtual leadership more effective.
- Have you checked in with your team to see how they’re doing?
Accountants might try to argue that feelings and fear have no place at work; the work we do is black & white, and frankly, many of us like it that way. But in a time where there is so much uncertainty and fear happening, we simply can’t ignore it…at least not if we want to keep our teams engaged.
“Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior” -Brené Brown
It’s critical that you check in with your team to see how they’re doing mentally and emotionally during trying times. You don’t have to be a therapist, and you don’t have to have all the answers or try to fix it. Just being there as a listening ear and letting them know that they aren’t alone is a step in the right direction. But you never know- some of the things they’re concerned with may be easily addressed and can reduce their stress quickly. They might just need someone else to help them find the way forward.
One other important thought- How will you know if they’re not ok? Without the ability to pick up on someone’s mood or body language when we’re together physically, it becomes easier to hide our true emotions and state of wellbeing behind an email or a text. Ask them how you will know- or how they will let you know if they need support. Open the lines of honest communication with your team and keep them open- it will make a huge difference.
2. Are you keeping in regular contact with your team?
As we mentioned above, communication is key in making virtual work scenarios effective. We need to start by addressing their feelings and fears, and then we can work on how to keep our teams productive.
Consider this- both you and your team have lost the structure & community of going to work and being together in an office. As virtual leaders, we have to find new ways to replace that structure and community that many of us relied upon heavily. This means regular communication (even more than when you were together) and should include ways that they can get in touch with you if they need to. Productivity is one thing, but we also need to make sure our teams are feeling supported and connected even though they’re at home. Set recurring calls or regular office hours when you’re available to field questions and offer guidance. This will go a long way in keeping them engaged and keeping them with you once this is over.
3. Are you setting crystal clear expectations?
This ties into #2 and the concept of providing a structure. Some accountability is lost when our team is WFH. We can’t see them or check in on them as easily as we once could. So, how can you help keep them on track? Make sure you’re setting very clear expectations and daily targets. It’s also important to help them prioritize their tasks. Be cautious about assigning too many tasks at once; this can lead to being overwhelmed and can be counterproductive. If you prefer to assign tasks/ workload on a weekly basis, be sure to set daily targets or priorities to keep them on track.
4. Are you getting the results you want from your team?
No, we’re not being critical of your team by asking this question. It’s actually a great way to reflect on the effectiveness of your leadership & delegation skills. When I work with new leaders (or new virtual leaders) who aren’t getting the desired work product from their team, the first thing we look at is how the task was delegated. If you aren’t getting what you want, ask yourself where you could have been clearer. Did you share with them what an ideal finished product would look like? Did you set a clear due date? Did you give them a time budget? Where did you need to provide more training? Use this as a tool to help yourself get better as a leader- the more effective you are in providing guidance, the better the work product will be.
5. Are your expectations realistic?
Making your expectations clear is one thing (see #3), but we also have to make sure that we’re setting our teams up to win. Are we expecting them to be as productive at home as they are in the office? That may or may not be possible under these circumstances. Look for ways to support them in being as productive as possible and explore how you can flex to work with their unique circumstance. For example, a couple who are both now working from home with young kids may need to have flexible work hours to trade-off childcare duty during the day. It might not be ideal, but if you can work with your team to create win/win scenarios that they can stick to, you will get more out of them in the long run.
6. Have you sought feedback on what you could be doing better?
There are so many things you can be doing now to build up the trust and relationships that you have with your team. Seeking out feedback and showing that you are committed to getting better is at the top of my list. Now that your team has likely been at home for a couple of weeks, it’s a great time to check in to see how it’s going from their perspective. Do they feel supported? What do they need more of from you? Be curious and open to feedback and suggestions and try taking some of those suggestions on board. Your demonstrating a willingness and a hunger to grow will be contagious.
What other challenges are you facing in your new role as a virtual leader? Share with us! We’d love to hear about it, and we’d be even happier to help you find a solution. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In every crisis, there is an opportunity for greatness. We are standing for each of you during this time- we’re committed to helping you make the most of this opportunity and to come out better and stronger on the other side. If there is something we can help with, please let us know.