Building and Maintaining Relationships Through a Virtual Network
With the shift from in-person work settings to virtual work settings, traditional methods of building and maintaining relationships have gone out the window. In light of these widespread changes to workplace culture and organization, it is imperative more so than ever that leaders make an intentional effort to facilitate and maintain virtual interpersonal relationships. Some of the benefits of facilitating and creating interpersonal workplace relationships includes enhancing trust, improvement in team dynamics, increases in productivity and motivation, and boosts in employee satisfaction. As seen in The Leader Habit, here are a few strategies and practices that you can implement in a virtual workplace to build upon and maintain interpersonal relationships.
“In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect, communication that inspires, and encourages others to do their best.”– Zig Ziglar
Use Thorough & Thoughtful Communication
According to The Leader Habit, clear communication is a core leadership capacity. Teams rely on effective communication to understand direction, set priorities, and give feedback; and as we work from home, this need is magnified. In virtual workplaces, we aren’t able to simply walk across the office to ask for clarification or give feedback. As a result, this lack of in-person contact reduces our ability to synthesize, question, and retain information. Therefore, virtual workplaces require leaders to engage in clear and intentional communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and that questions and concerns are addressed. Here are some questions to consider when communicating with your team:
- Am I being transparent? Transparency is crucial in virtual communication. Online working environments can cause uncertainty among employees, and transparency is the best way to provide reassurance.
- Am I being conversational? It’s important to ensure that virtual communication creates a two-way lane of conversation—don’t just talk at people, talk with them.
- How often am I following-up? Effective virtual communication requires increased touch points. Make sure you follow up and check in with your employees/team often.
- Is the information relevant? Since it is harder to ask questions and gain clarification in an online work environment, you should include only what’s relevant when communicating with your team. Don’t create any extra ambiguities by including unnecessary information.
- Is what I’m saying easy to follow? Organization and structure are imperative to communicating clearly. Use a clear structure and organize the message around a few key points.
- Is it simple and to the point? Information overload is one of the biggest barriers to effective communication in a virtual workplace. Respond with a short and pointed message, rather than overwhelming the audience.
Now more than ever, it’s important for leaders to engage in genuine empathy and show people that they care. Demonstrating a genuine concern for others’ well-being not only builds trust and develops strong relationships, but it also fosters a sense of connectedness that many of us have been lacking since our transition to a virtual workplace. When people feel like they are cared about, they are more likely to reciprocate and engage in empathy. This creates a culture of mutual respect, loyalty, and dedication within a team, and it inspires people to put in extra effort to achieve goals and meet important deadlines. Moreover, when leaders demonstrate consideration for the needs and experiences of others, it results in increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Leaders can implement and practice empathy in the following ways:
- Be polite and respectful. Ensure that your words and tone convey respect, regardless of the circumstance.
- Say you care. Explicitly use words and phrase that communicate caring, such as “your satisfaction matters a great deal to me” or “I value your input on this issue”.
- Ask people how they’re doing. Check in with people. Ask them what they need and how you can support them.
- Acknowledge and validate personal experiences. Acknowledge others’ feelings as they come up and try to validate them instead of dismissing them.
Active listening is essential to leadership. It involves hearing and comprehending others by asking insightful questions and checking your own understanding. As a leader, you need to be able to understand problems, so you can effectively address them—and you can’t do this if you don’t listen to what people have to say. Consult with others and learn from them. By listening actively, you communicate to your team that you value their input and ideas, which can help increase employee satisfaction, engagement, and performance. Here are three ways to start developing and practicing your active listening:
- Ask open-ended questions starting with “what, how, or why”
- Restate, summarize, and clarify what you hear during conversations
- Ask probing questions to achieve deeper insight and identify root causes of problems
Create Opportunities to Gather Virtually
Interpersonal relationships are fostered by human interaction, and in a virtual working environment, there are less ways for people to gather and feel connected. Therefore, it is important that leaders create opportunities for people to virtually gather outside of work. A great way to do this is implementing a virtual happy hour to enable employees to mingle on a more personal level, rather than only interacting with each other at work. Virtual happy hours can be used to build team cohesiveness, to foster relationships among team members, and to communicate that people’s satisfaction and happiness matter.
While there are many aspects of work that have changed in our transition to a virtual workplace, the need for leaders to build and maintain relationships within their teams remains of utmost—and increased—importance. All employees, regardless of their role, play an important part in the social fabric of an organization. Now, more than ever, leaders need to make an intentional effort to make sure that fabric stays intact, by intentionally building and maintaining relationships in a virtual workplace.‹ Previous PostNext Post ›