Root Inc. Co-founder and Chairman Jim Haudan recently sat down with leaders from six other organizations, all leaders in their respective fields, to discuss the monumental challenges and subsequent lessons learned from 2020. One surprising revelation was how each leader was able to achieve success, despite being thrown into a virtual workplace environment without any notice, plan, or precedent.

These leaders shared some advice on what other leaders can do to find success, too.

Five Tips for Virtual Leadership Success

Feeling like we belong at work has never been more important. It’s been reported that 75% of people feel more socially isolated and less connected to their organizations and employee relationships than they were pre-pandemic. Knowing that virtual workplaces are likely to continue to exist in the long term, what should leaders do to help create connections and a sense of belonging for employees? 

Tip 1: Leaders need to connect with each other first.

The senior leadership team that schedules regular meetings for its own members – and holds people accountable to attend and participate – is the one that sets the example for how frequently leaders should check in with their teams. This is a habit-forming behavior that leads to unfiltered, uncensored, and transparent conversations within the senior team and beyond. The more often people are asked to share their thoughts, the more likely they will be to actually let their guards down and share honest insights.

Tip 2: Don’t be set on your messaging. Consider the audience first.

Global organizations need to know that making meaningful connections doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, messaging created in the U.S. doesn’t always cross cultural borders. Leaders at global organizations must consider creating teams dedicated to fostering collaboration across borders and ensuring that cultural nuances are addressed in all communications. Without this effort, those working abroad will end up feeling very disconnected.

Tip 3: Talk about the good stuff and the bad stuff.

Is it fun to discuss salary cuts, employee burnout, facility closures, or delays in pay increases? Not at all. But people value and respect honesty. Leaders must be transparent, open, and honest. In turn, people will likely reciprocate with candor and constructive input, which will make the group more cohesive and aligned in the end.

Tip 4: Virtual meetings are the great equalizer.

2020 leveled the playing field as the corner office became irrelevant. Regardless of role or title, every person attending a virtual meeting appears in the same-sized box on the screen. This environment has the power to make people feel more at ease and more likely to share their perspectives. Additionally, without the limitations of room size or event budget, more people can come together online. As a result, those who previously might not have been able to connect in person now have more opportunity to form relationships. These connections can be critical differentiators in whether a businesses succeeds or struggles.

Tip 5: Establish new bonds between leaders and employees.

Now that everyone is a pro at using platforms like Zoom and Webex, without facing the constraints of everyone having to physically be in the same space, leaders can connect with more people than ever. The best senior teams divide and conquer, asking all leaders to helm regular video meetings in which various hot topics are discussed. This enables leaders to “check the pulse” on employees’ mindsets. Also, as people literally peer into each other’s homes and lives, everyone can develop a better sense of our colleagues’ and leaders’ lives and challenges, creating new connections and greater empathy.

The isolation of working from home has forced many of us to adopt some new, beneficial habits. The five behaviors above are ones that will surely lead to more cohesive and engaged workplaces now and in the future.

March 30, 2021


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