9 Communication Essentials for Leading Virtually

More than ever, you are leading and managing teams of employees who are dispersed virtually throughout the country, hemisphere, or globe (aka GDT).

If you are suddenly thrust into this role, it is essential to replace the image of managing remote employees with one of engaging virtual (GDT) teams. Your communication creates that image and impacts the outcome — good or bad.

    The remote image burdens; the engaged image inspires.
    The remote image increases detachment; the engaged image increases commitment.
    The remote image controls; the engaged image empowers.
    The remote image breeds division; the engaged image triggers collaboration.

9 Communication Essentials for Leading Virtually. Image Licensced from Istock.

9 Communication Essentials for Leading and Engaging Virtually

Do you want your employees to feel like a radio controlled car that you operate remotely?
Or a trusted dream team at the heart of company success? Use these steps to build a dream team from everyone’s hearts and minds.


  1. Bonds. Communication can focus on just facts and details or it can come from the heart and also build bonds. When leading or managing virtually, facts only communication can come across as giving orders. Communication from the heart shows care for them as people as well as respect for their competence and skills.

    Get to know them as people. Face time and fun time are critical.

    Develop an uncommon talent for developing common bonds.

  2. Commitment. When a leader is very laid back with dispersed teams it can be seen as uncommitted. Show them your passion for the mission and for their talents. Passion is inspiration that renews itself and energizes teams no matter how dispersed they are.
  3. Culture. This is a critical component of leadership near or far. Yet with dispersed teams, intensify your focus on culture. Ex-pats need your understanding of their adjustment to a different culture and natives need your true understanding and embrace of their culture.

    Learn about different cultures and offer this learning to the employees. Communicating with true cultural knowledge and awareness is essential to leading virtually and working with dispersed team members!

    Resource: Anne Egros, Multi-Cultural Cross Training & Coaching

  4. Clarity. Distance can amplify anxiety and minimize clarity. As a leader you can lend tremendous value by clarifying issues when others are overwhelmed with big demands. Be sure not to demand clarity out of your fear; help others to find clarity to relieve their fear.

    Spread light where there is darkness; don’t spread darkness where they need light.

  5. Exploration. Communicate like an explorer and watch the dispersed teams’ respect for you grow. They know there is much you don’t know. Asking great open-ended questions helps all to navigate to success. Avoid the detective approach for it presumes trouble. Explore the positive possibilities with them!

    Dialogue is the corrective lens to tunnel vision.

  6. Empowerment. As you lead virtual dispersed teams, empower with your knowledge, insight, and experience. Likewise, do not dump your responsibilities on those not tooled to handle them under the guise of empowerment. Struggling when resources are near is tough. Struggling, alone, when resources are few or far is devastating.

    Empower don’t abandon! Your words and their situation and outlook determine which you are doing.

  7. Availability. Most leaders see team empowerment as less involvement for them. With dispersed teams, empowerment often means having access to you and other resources during their local time zone. Empowerment means being able to analyze, assess, decide, and act. How will the teams have access to your knowledge and insight from different time zones and in the moment?

    Ask them for examples and ideas on this topic. It is often overlooked!

  8. Outreach. Simply put — don’t assume silence is golden or no news is good news. Reach out and ask them on a weekly video chat: “What are the top challenges you are dealing with? What chips away at your morale? What can I do to facilitate your success? What would you like me to do differently?”
  9. Twitter Colleague Daniel Buhr: “In communicating we lead. In feedback we learn.”

  10. Inspiration. Your words can woo them to higher levels of achievement or wound them with disdain. Choose wisely. Be honest not blunt. Celebrate their successes and have all learn from mistakes. Build togetherness while respecting individuality. Turn monologues into dialogues.

    Network your inspiration to engage the heart of their spirit and the talent of their minds.



The evil of isolation from distance or differences undermines the true potential of teams — especially when dispersed throughout the globe.

Reduce isolation through communication and a unified purpose.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related posts:

Revelations on Communication for Introverted Leaders

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

5 Responses to “9 Communication Essentials for Leading Virtually”

  1. Hi Kate!

    This article in some ways has a connection to the one on leadership and introversion. Where introversion can make others “remote,” even if you are standing right next to them, your post here focuses on teams that could be “remote” in the outer sense — being literally distributed across the globe. As a consequence there are many cross-over points in these two posts about the work needed to bridge distance, whether that distance is psychological or real.

    The common — and complicated — theme I take from my own experiences is that distance often equates to ambiguity. In turn, the ambiguity generates anxiety and many other emotions that interfere with our basic need to find connection and understanding in order to do our best work. As leaders, noticing when ambiguity is present isn’t just a call for more information (although that is often helpful); it’s really a call for “high touch” contacts that are meant not just to bridge physical distance but interpersonal separation.

    I love the way your mind works!

    Best
    Dan

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Dan,
      This article is the follow-on piece to the post on introverted leaders. In fact, one reader asked me for more info on leading/managing geographically distributed teams (GDTs) and my mind started to work on it.

      The biggest issue — and you captured it in your comment — is the “touch” aspect of communicating. Interpersonal separation does not have to exist in physical distance.

      Especially today with videochat at the desktop and on mobile devices. We have arrived technically — now it’s time to make sure our leadership is all it can be!

      Thrilled to have your continued insights.

      Many thanks,
      Kate

  2. lolly daskal says:

    What a great post. insightful. engaging and inspiring.
    I love reading your posts. They make me think deeper.
    You are the best.
    Lolly

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Dear Lolly,
      Well then it must be quite mutual. For I can say without hesitation that participating in Leadfromwithin Chat every Tues. night at 8pm ET has excavated an inspirational side of me I never knew existed.

      I am grateful for your comment here for it encourages not just me but many others to discover and implement the deeper thoughts that hide within.

      In every post I try to provide both inspiration and tangible takeaways and am gratified when people tell me it helped them.

      Many thanks Lolly. I hope others will join the chat and discover — as you often call it — heart based leadership.
      Kate

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