Many leaders still struggle with leading virtually. The issue is not so much that they reject the notion of having a virtual workforce all-together - let's face it - in the 21st century and beyond, the virtual workforce is a permanent fixture of life moving forward - and it has tremendous benefits like reaching far-flung talent that heretofore was not accessible.
The challenges have more to do with the mystery of why people don't behave as expected. Leaders can get frustrated when members of the virtual workforce act in ways that run counter to their leader practices.
It's a major issue - so much so - that HBR has said that it is the single most requested topic by their readership.
Some say that leadership strategies for the virtual workforce should be implemented in ways that are similar to what they were in "traditional" work days - when people routinely came to offices and sat side-by-side with others.
While some of the ways we led in the past are still effective, they are not the primary way to go about leading virtually.
Some say that cultural differences makes it most difficult for workers to understand each other because their basic backgrounds vary significantly. As a result, many companies have sprung up simply to train people on cultural differences and how to overcome them.
But this alone, does not necessarily work either and sometimes can backfire by creating artificial stereotyping that once gelled, are difficult to undo.
At the heart of the leading virtually rests the now dominant new phenomenon of our time - Virtual Distance.
As many of you know, I've been collecting data on Virtual Distance for over 10 years. My conclusion thus far: Virtual Distance is rising faster in almost every walk of life and it's consequences continue to plague organizations - now more than ever before.
The good news though is that we've identified it, categorized it, can measure it and reduce it. Most importantly we can manage it over time and ironically - make it work in our favor. The first step is to understand it better and accept it as part of everyday life moving forward.
To that end, we have to know what it means. The definition of Virtual Distance has evolved over the years.
Today I define it as a measure of what's lost when the human being gets translated through the machine.
With Virtual Distance Metrics and Analytics tools, leaders can better understand their specific areas of opportunity when it comes to reducing and managing Virtual Distance factors.
This allows leaders to target specific solutions. Taking action on these issues directly, leads to
Meaning is critical to our work - as it is where we spend so much of our days - hoping to feel satisfied that we've solved problems in collaborative ways with like-minded professionals with whom we can develop deep relationships.
As the Virtual Distance Institute gets ready to launch new programs more broadly, I'd love to know what your experiences have been over the years.