Do you travel significantly or work virtually from your team?

  • Do you  worry about your team getting what they need from you?
  • Do you wonder about whether you know how things are really going back in the office?

Or, maybe you are simply in meetings all day while your team tries to reach you by email both day and night…

P.S. If you are a consultant, you can replace “team” with or add “clients.”

Every leader has to find his or her own rhythm of working out-of-sight. Here are three strategies to prompt you developing your personal approach or refining what’s already in place.

Think As If You Are Present

Akin to the age-old advice to “act as if,” consider what you would be doing if you were right down the hall from your team (or boss). Would you:

  • Stop in to talk about the weather, the front-page article in the WSJ or local newspaper, debrief the meeting, etc.?
  • Would you grab someone for a quick lunch?
  • Take five minutes to sit with someone to review and document?

The challenge is to find a way to

  1. Go through your day thinking as if you are working in the office, and then—
  2. Act virtually to replace what you would do in-person.

I used to “stop by” a team member’s desk by a telephone call with “what’s up?” and “how can I help?” as the agreed reason for these calls. When I thought of the person at 6 p.m. or on a Saturday morning, I would call the person. Often, he or she would be at the office and grateful for a quick call. If not, a voicemail sent the message that I was “there.”

Set Crystal Clear Expectations

Getting the work output, outcomes, and process clear is not as easy as it ever seems. And, it is always a key to team success. When you are virtual (remember, you may just be out of sight), you are  not “seeing” how things are going. Therefore, knowing that your team member has a clear expectation with you is crucial.

Setting expectations is not just about a statement or list of tasks and due dates. For many expectations, you need a way to ensure you have a mutual expectation.

  1. Take the time upfront to actually envision the end-state of key tasks or work outputs and outcomes.
  2. Ask a team member to do the preparation for that conversation, rather than telling the person in your words. When someone “nods” understanding, you may still be surprised in the end with a lack of full translation.

Use Multi-Media to Replace Your Body

What percentage of your communication is through email? 50%? 75-95%?

I know. It’s quick, easy, and accepted as the way-of-the-day. Here’s the kicker:

  • People don’t really read these days.
  • Emails get buried easily.
  • Tone, urgency, and meaning are often lost or misread.
  • Most of us are on automatic, triaging or filing our emails, not really engaging. You do it, so you know they do it.

Yes, your team may sense your presence through rapid-fire emailing. But, engagement is elusive. Change-up your media tactics by:

  • Calling the person before you send a email. I sometimes find that a client is actually at his or her desk (imagine that!). This calling can replace “popping in” to an office. You can also send an email and voicemail with the intent that your voicemail will deliver your desired tone.
  • Sending a group voicemail to share, update or celebrate. Companies sometimes send these voicemails, but often only with official-formal announcements.
  • Make video conferencing on your computer or phone a new option. Your face (and voice) tells more of the full story. I know many people resist video at work. But, most people use Skype to talk with their friends and family. Why not see your team member’s reactions? It takes a nanosecond to set it up if you get the practice into your repertoire.

Strategies to create presence are not about being a “good” boss or being “a people person.” Your strategies and tactics should be aligned to getting the best results from your team.

What could you incorporate into your practices that would create more presence and, therefore, better results?