Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Leadership

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Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Leadership

A woman working from home having a virtual team meeting
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Virtual leadership – it’s something we’re becoming more and more used to as more companies switch to remote or hybrid work, but if not done right, it can lead to disastrous consequences. To properly understand why virtually leading a person or a team has so many challenges, first, you need to understand why virtual leadership is so different from in-person leadership.

Virtual leadership is different because there’s infrequent and sometimes even no face-to-face contact, making it hard to form relationships. Virtual leaders also deal with employees across all different time zones. Without having the same working hours, projects and communication can be stalled. Virtual work also requires a significant reliance on technology, so if there are ever any power outages, broken laptops, networks that are down, etc., work is severely hindered.

Let’s look at the numbers. There has been an 800% increase in virtual workers during the past 5 years. The use of virtual meetings has increased in 80% of companies. Only 62% of people are somewhat satisfied with the virtual meetings they attend. 73% report that “getting everyone engaged” and “multi-tasking” are always, or often, challenges.

Many of you reading this now are more than likely virtual workers!

Recommended training from HRDQ-U

Leading from a Distance: Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Leadership

Tips for Leading Virtual Meetings

With so many companies relying on virtual work and meetings, yet so many workers feeling dissatisfied with these changes, leaders must do something. Planning is essential to overcome these feelings against virtual work and meetings.

Don’t Have Meetings without a Reason

Holding meetings without a clear purpose can waste time and resources. Before scheduling a meeting, ensure there is a specific objective or problem to address. Consider whether the meeting will:

  • Facilitate decision-making or problem-solving.
  • Require real-time collaboration or discussion.
  • Benefit from the presence of key stakeholders or experts.


If the purpose is unclear or could be achieved through another method, reconsider whether a meeting is necessary. Sharing information can often be accomplished through more efficient means than a meeting. Alternatives include emails, document sharing, and collaborative tools like Slack, Teams, Trello, etc.

Be Prepared

Effective meetings require everyone involved to be prepared. Preparation includes creating an agenda so everyone knows what will be discussed, sharing any necessary materials well in advance so they can be reviewed, and assigning roles for who will lead the meeting, who will take notes, and who will follow up with action items. In the preparation process, it’s also important to think back to previous meetings and ensure that all previous action items were completed or are in progress. When everyone is well-prepared, meetings are focused, efficient, and productive.

Rotate Meeting Times

When working with employees across multiple time zones, rotating meeting times ensures fairness and inclusivity. Consider:

  • Time Zone Awareness: Share each employee’s time zone to find suitable times for all participants.
  • Equity: Rotate meeting times so no one consistently attends at inconvenient hours.
  • Flexibility: Record meetings for those who cannot attend and provide a summary afterward.


This approach respects everyone’s time and promotes greater collaboration.

Plan Shorter, More Frequent Meetings

Shorter, more frequent meetings can be more effective than longer meetings. With shorter meetings, people are able to have increased focus because communication is concise, and they aren’t bogged down with excessive information. More frequent meetings also help the team stay aligned and address issues promptly before they become bigger. And lastly, shorter meetings are less likely to cause meeting fatigue and dissatisfaction because you are respecting everyone’s time.

Tips for Building Relationships

Building relationships is also key in a virtual environment. When people feel connected, collaboration flows, team morale is high, people feel more comfortable sharing ideas and experimenting with new ones, and everyone contributes to creating a strong organizational structure. Building strong relationships is hard to do virtually when your main form of communication is through quick messages and planned meetings, but there are things leaders can implement to help everyone feel connected.

Incorporate “Water Cooler” Conversations

Including time in the agenda for “water cooler” conversations creates the informal interactions that naturally occur in an office setting when people run into each other. These casual conversations about life and how things are going for everyone allow team members to connect on a personal level and provide a break from formal work discussions, reducing stress and making the work environment more relaxed.

Take an Interest in Team Members

Showing real interest in the well-being of your employees shows that you care and helps build trust in the relationship. Regular one-on-one meetings to discuss not only work issues but personal things is a great way to get started. It’s important to keep track of the personal things going on in each person’s life such as birthdays, trips, and hobbies, and follow up on them. Empathy is crucial in understanding and supporting your team members, especially in a virtual setting where non-verbal cues are limited.

Establish Processes to Build Trust and Relationships

Intentional activities designed to build trust and strengthen relationships are essential for virtual teams. Consider implementing these processes:

  • Group Activities: Organize virtual team-building activities such as online games, quizzes, or virtual coffee breaks to encourage bonding.
  • Breakout Groups: Use breakout rooms during meetings to facilitate smaller group discussions, allowing for more in-depth interactions and collaboration.
  • Team Workshops: Conduct workshops focused on team dynamics, communication skills, and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Peer Feedback Sessions: Regularly hold sessions where team members can give and receive constructive feedback, helping to build mutual respect and trust.


By incorporating these structured activities, you can create opportunities for team members to connect, collaborate, and develop a strong sense of unity and trust.

Adjust Leadership Behaviors

Lastly, keep in mind that the behaviors necessary to be successful when leading from a distance are not totally unique and new. However, it does require being proactive, particularly since many of these behaviors become more challenging when working or leading virtually.

The real secret is that there is no secret. It’s not about a new management skill that makes working virtually possible. The best virtual leaders understand this and have bridged the “virtual gap” by adjusting their behavior and work habits to accommodate the unique characteristics of their virtual environment.

To learn more about virtual leadership, check out Rick Lepsinger’s webinar, Leading from a Distance: Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Leadership.

Rick Lepsinger
Rick Lepsinger

Rick Lepsinger is the President of OnPoint Consulting. He is a virtual team expert with more than 30 years of experience and a proven track record as a human resource consultant and executive. He is the co-author of several books on leadership and organizational effectiveness, including Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results and Remote Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance. Rick currently sits on the faculty of GE’s Management Development Course (MDC) and leads the program, Making GE’s Global Matrix Work.

Connect with Rick on LinkedIn.

Recommended Training from HRDQ-U
Leading from a Distance: Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Leadership

Learn the key characteristics of high-performing virtual teams and understand how to manage, inspire motivation, and build trust when leading remote teams.

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