In our current virtual work environment, effective leadership skills and strategies are more important than ever. There are behaviors that have helped leaders guide their nonprofits forward while working remotely.
To be an effective leader, show your trust and respect for the people you manage. Your team members should know that you have complete confidence in their ability to fulfill their responsibilities. Go out of your way to show confidence through positive reinforcement.
Respect your team’s personal time and circumstances. Being flexible and understanding your staff members’ personal needs demonstrates your trust and your respect for them and their situations.
Foster Intentional Communication: One of the biggest challenges of working in a remote environment is the inability to walk the halls and spontaneously check in with your team. Maintain your visibility and ensure your team members know you are there to support them.
Set up a consistent communication cadence, even if the meetings are brief, to stay connected and gauge the temperature of your team. In addition, proactively and frequently reach out to individuals and simply ask, “How are you doing?” or “How can I help you?” This can go a long way in solidifying trust and ensuring your team members that you are there for them.
Set Clear Goals, Expectations: Emphasize setting clear goals and expectations to keep your team on track and maintain consistent productivity while working outside of the office. Clarity is essential. Each team member should understand the desired outcome of their individual responsibilities, as well as the entire team’s, and a clear way to measure progress toward the goal. To keep your team motivated, goals should be achievable and challenging. Also, establish a mutually agreed-upon time frame for completion.
Be Transparent: We have all encountered many personal and professional challenges since the pandemic began. As a leader, you must set the right tone for your team. Show your human side, introduce humor and talk about what interests you personally.
Being transparent and open to your team members helps to relieve their stress and uncertainty. Emphasize the importance of taking breaks and prioritizing mental health. It’s critical to show your team — especially your less experienced staff members — that no one needs to be in front of a computer all the time.
Show them how you have embraced working remotely and how you have taken advantage of the flexibility it can provide. Furthermore, working at home has introduced new challenges such as technology issues, children crying and dogs barking.
Expect that things will not always run smoothly. It’s especially important that leaders maintain their composure when things go sideways. Being patient, empathetic and kind toward your team is paramount for each member’s well-being, productivity and success.
Recognize, Celebrate Accomplishments: Expressing gratitude and appreciation for individual and team accomplishments can boost your team’s morale. Doing this effectively requires knowing the preferences of each team member. This is all about building and fostering personal connections.
By proactively reaching out to your staff members, you get to know them on a personal level and better understand what is important to them. As an example, a person who is introverted might prefer an acknowledgement of a job well done privately rather than in public. In celebrating success appropriately, you are more likely to increase confidence and motivation.
However, if you rarely acknowledge your team’s accomplishments or celebrate in a generic way that appears forced or disingenuous, you risk decreasing your team’s morale and productivity.
There is no one-size-fits-all in leadership, especially in a virtual environment. However, by showing trust in and respect for your team, communicating proactively and consistently, setting clear and measurable objectives, being transparent, setting a positive tone, and recognizing and celebrating success, leaders can keep their teams productive, connected and feeling successful in a virtual setting. The impact of strong leadership during turbulent times can help your organization not only maintain stability, but can also position your organization to thrive.
Nicholas Lazzaruolo is Grant Thornton LLP’s Melville, N.Y. office managing partner. He also serves as an Audit Services partner within the firm’s Not-for-Profit and Higher Education practices. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.