Emotional intelligence during remote work: Leadership tips for 2021

With remote work likely to be the norm well into 2021, consider these tips to apply your emotional intelligence and build strong, supportive teams
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This year, business leaders were forced to quickly learn how to motivate and connect with their team members virtually. In 2021, we will face more of the same.

The pressures of remote management can fray our emotions, stretch our intelligence, and test our patience. Our ability to make sound decisions under these trying circumstances requires emotional intelligence.

But what does that mean exactly? To lead effectively in 2021, we must be self-aware and recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions to positively influence the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence involves giving and receiving feedback, dealing with challenging relationships, and learning to act in resource-constrained environments. It also includes meeting deadlines, managing change, and dealing with setbacks, failure, and yes – success.

[ How do your team meetings stack up? Read also:  Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

In my new role as president and CEO at Virtana, part of my job is to remove friction and complexity for our customers and partners and to flatten obstacles that impede teams. I also need to make sure every person has what they need to excel.

To do this, I am spending the first 90 days on a “listen, learn, and observe tour.” Virtana’s team members, partners, and end customers have a treasure trove of the knowledge I need to do my job, so I am listening while creating and delivering upon the vision of our company. As I learn about our people, I am also listening to get consensus on company goals and objectives. I am listening to our talented team members to understand how they view their role in the company’s success as well as their own.

My “listening tour” begins with open-ended questions:

  • What keeps you awake at night about IT and cloud right now?
  • How can we make things simpler and easier for you?
  • How can we empower you to accelerate digital transformation?
  • Where do you plan to head next in your cloud journey?
  • What motivates you? Share why you join/select/partner/invest in Virtana.

Finally, I ask the toughest question: “What do you like and what don’t you like about Virtana?” And I really do want to hear the answers.

My questions are cloud-centric, but you can create your own questions that are pertinent to your business. Once a conversation is underway, remember to recognize individuals. Thank them out loud and let people know you support them.

Emotional intelligence: How to avoid destructive language

Equally important is understanding the crux of low emotional intelligence: Destructive language that tears people down rather than encouraging their growth and ability to thrive. To avoid this, learn to identify and steer clear of language that makes you seem more like a tyrant than a leader. Here are some examples:

Eliminate the word “I.” For example, instead of “Because I said so,” ask “How can we get you the support you need to make this a success?”

Be inclusive. Avoid statements like “That is a bad idea.” Rather: “Your idea is a good starting point, let’s build on that.”

Take responsibility. Don’t say “This is not my/my team’s problem.” Consider “Let’s see how we can be of help.”

Consider saying "How can we make this decision work?"

Be kind. Avoid “I don’t have time for this.” Instead, say: “Let’s talk later when I have time and we will do what we can to help.”

Create a fail-fast culture. Don’t ask “Who approved that idea/decision?” Consider “How can we make this decision work?”

If you start by treating people with trust and respect, they will wow you.

One advantage of virtual management is that we have gained time formerly spent on travel. Use that opportunity to participate in more virtual team meetings and one-on-ones – strive to make every connection count.

As we close the door on a tumultuous 2020, let’s start 2021 by connecting from a place of empathy, trust, and respect for the hard work that all of us accomplish every day.

Here’s to an emotionally intelligent 2021.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Kash Shaikh is President and CEO of Virtana, AI-powered unified observability for migrating, optimizing, and monitoring hybrid and public cloud.