As we’re about to see, digital workplaces come with a few unique challenges that leaders must learn to overcome. If you take the time to foster these eight skills, however, maintaining a harmonious, thriving and productive digital workplace might be easier than you think.
1. Is Seen as a Knowledge Leader and Resource
Maybe this one goes without saying — but you’d be surprised. Today, many workplaces are partially or all digital. If your team uses digital tools every day, it’s possible you were involved in the decision-making and roll-out process. Even if you weren’t an original evangelist for the technology or service your team now uses, you’ll still be looked at as a resource when it comes to troubleshooting and realizing its full value.
When employees have questions about a tool or platform, the process for resolving it should be, at most, two steps long. They should either be able to count on you for the answer, or you should be able to point them to a resource they can use to find out for themselves.
2. Knows How to Inspire Workplace Integrity
Integrity is a person’s ability to carry out their work or any other task in good faith, with a rational mind and with an eye for the details. In other words, workplace leaders — even and especially in a digital setting — need to inspire their team members not to cut corners and to perform the necessary due diligence in all things.
3. Practices Intellectual Curiosity
Anybody can survive long enough just by treading water. If you want to get off your island, or into a position with better pay and greater responsibilities, you need to be more than just good enough. That means expanding your mind and your skill-sets.
The digital workplace can inspire, for lack of a better word, comfort. It can be easy to fall into routines, do the same work in the same way, and put off broadening our horizons. If you’re a digital workplace leader, spend some time thinking about how your company, and your personal example, inspires your team members to engage in ongoing learning.
4. Is a Student of Human Nature
With so much business taking place on the internet these days, your role as a leader may find you stepping into several different functions in the course of a day. One hour, you may be helping a team of remote workers configure a new collaboration tool. The next hour, you may be on the phone with a client who’d like an update on their latest campaign.
Communicating and collaborating digitally to this extent can stifle the sense that we’re all working toward the same goal. Knowing when to make a phone call instead of sending an email, or maintaining reasonable flexibility with respect to deadlines, can go a long way.
5. Communicates Deliberately and Clearly
This one’s straightforward enough on paper, but how about in practice? Be honest with yourself: Do you find you have to repeat directions on a regular basis? Do members of your team miss deadlines because they weren’t sure what was expected? Communicating clearly in a digital workplace can be difficult with limited face-time. Luckily, complex or multi-step processes can be illuminated pretty clearly with screenshots or even screen-sharing.
For the most part, though, just taking more care with communicating clearly can go a long way toward eliminating misunderstandings.
6. Has Open Channels for Providing Feedback
Leaders in the digital workplace might be engaging with contractors on design projects one minute and lining up calls with clients the next. Both relationship types require feedback to flow in two directions when it needs to.
One convenient way to leave your door open in a digital setting is to include a Google Form or similar feedback mechanism in your teams’ resources. It doesn’t have to be fancy. In Google’s case, submissions are sent — anonymously if you like — right to your inbox. Every leader needs an open-door policy. They just look a bit different these days.
7. Delegates When It’s Necessary
If you’re lucky enough to do something you love for a living, it can be easy to burn the candle at both ends even without trying. The digital workplace isn’t any different in that respect. In fact, it provides some interesting tools you might not have in a more traditional setting that can help take some of the more tedious burdens off your shoulders.
There are actually more online resources than you might think for creating micro-jobs for independent, gig-based contractors to tackle. Amazon Mechanical Turks and Fiverr are two examples. Others include Appen, EasyShift and Field Agent. These days, not every task you want to delegate requires you to expand your team in a permanent way.
8. Radiates Passion for the Work
The eighth and perhaps most important thing digital workplace leaders need — and they need enough of it that remote teams can see and feel it half a world away if they need to — is passion for what they do. We don’t all have to love every second of our jobs, but executing every task to the best of our ability takes passion. What else would you call it? If you’ve managed to pick up this skill along the way, don’t be surprised if many of the others fall into place, too.
Digital workplace leaders need many skills to execute their jobs with aplomb. Mastering these crucial abilities will help your company and your employees thrive.