The Virtual Leader's Style
and Conflict in the
In the 1960s, Douglas McGregor, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, put forth two theories of management. Theory X managers assume that employees have an inherent dislike of work and need to be managed closely to achieve productivity and high performance. He called this style of management "authoritarian." Theory Y managers believe that employees are internally motivated and want to contribute at work, without the need for close supervision. He called this style of management "participative."
Theory X and Theory Y, freshly applied to the virtual workplace, lead to interesting discussions about the nature of virtual leadership. Do virtual workers require closer supervision because the remote leader can no longer see what they're up to? A remote leader with these beliefs might make the mistake of micromanaging, checking up on their remote teams, and requiring unnecessary checkpoints and extraneous communication. In our research, this is one of the most annoying aspects of working virtually for many employees who find constant micromanagement to be demotivating.
Do virtual workers require little or no supervision, preferring instead to manage their priorities and their time without the manager's input? A remote leader with Theory Y beliefs might make the mistake of providing little structure and support, instead leaving their remote workers to feel as if they must "sink or swim." Virtual workers report that the feeling of being abandoned and the lack of visibility are also demotivating.
In both of these examples, managers may be making assumptions about what their virtual workers want and need to be successful. Micromanagement might be an extreme form of a Theory X (authoritarian) management style, while abandonment might be an extreme form of a Theory Y (participative) management style. In both cases, virtual leaders might not be meeting the external (environmental) needs or the internal (motivational) needs of their remote employees.
When I reflect on my own tendencies as the leader of a virtual company, I realize that I sometimes swing between these two extremes, micromanaging at times, and leaving people to "sink or swim" at times when I'm feeling swamped. I need to remind myself often that people who are working virtually require both structure and autonomy. As a virtual leader, I must make sure my expectations are clear and also allow people the freedom to succeed with my positive support and feedback. As I pay attention to my leadership style, I can take ownership of my impact on the talented people who work with me. That, in turn, helps to reduce misunderstandings, disagreements, and conflict.
NetSpeed Learning Solutions offers two engaging programs for leaders and teams that address these issues: the Virtual Leader program and Managing Workplace Conflict.
To learn more about how to reduce conflict in the virtual workplace, join us for our next complimentary webinar, Strategies to Reduce Conflict in the Virtual Workplace
on Wednesday, March 13, 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT.
Pay Attention to Chat
Recently, I was observing a trainer practicing her facilitation skills in a web workshop. At one point, two participants began to joke around in chat. There was a funny comment and several "LOL" chats in response. The facilitator, in mid-explanation, was completely thrown off course by the banter that was taking place in the chat pod. This joking felt like a rude interruption and a sign that people were not listening or paying attention.
In reality, the participant's joke was directly related to something she had just said. Bob had connected her point to his wife's constructive feedback to him at home and made a funny comment.
When people start chatting spontaneously, I cheer! It means they are comfortable communicating with each other. When someone chats, it's okay to pause and say, "Let me check the chat for a moment." Then you have options:
- Ignore the chat discussion and continue your presentation.
- Acknowledge the humor in the chat comment and connect back to your content.
- Acknowledge the humor and also ask a follow up or probing question that encourages a little more chatting relevant to the topic.
- Clear the chat without comment.
Of course, each of these options has consequences. In option 1, ignoring the chat as if it is not occurring may result in participants who continue to chat about the presentation. Instead of chat being integrated into the presentation, it will continue to stand alongside it like a disruptive influence. It becomes increasingly awkward for everyone.
In Option 2, acknowledging the humor, you allow yourself to relax and laugh, connecting the joke to what you're communicating. The consequence is reinforcement of the concept, along with a warmer, more relaxed learning environment.
In Option 3, you also follow up with a good probing question that encourages people to keep chatting. The consequence is a warmer, relaxed, and collaborative learning environment.
In Option 4, just clearing the chat pod without comment, you signal that participation is unwelcome. The consequence is a talking head presentation without participation.
You'll have a richer, more interesting virtual classroom if you'll learn to monitor and pay attention to what's happening in chat. Welcome humor and build on it. Allow the personalities and playfulness of people to shine through, warming up the virtual environment.
Cynthia Clay's Upcoming Speaking Events
If you are planning to attend an upcoming conference, Cynthia Clay would love to meet you there.
March 7, 2019
Brain-based Learning in the Virtual Classroom
March 8, 2019
Delivering High-Impact Virtual Learning Experiences
March 15, 2019
Captivate and Accelerate: Ensuring Results in the
Cynthia Clay's classic book on designing and delivering captivating interactive learning has been revised, with a new chapter on brain-based learning principles for engagement and retention.
reveals the principles and techniques for replicating the classroom experience while introducing a level of engagement and interactivity that is possible only in the virtual classroom. Look for it on Amazon and other book sellers by April 1, 2019.
|Explore something new with one of our engaging and interactive webinars or public courses.
Virtual Facilitator Trainer Certification (VFTC)
The March course opens next week, and seats are still available! This wildly popular course always receives rave reviews from participants as it provides a deep-dive into best practices for virtual facilitation and design!
You've seen Cynthia Clay in action month after month, now it's your turn to rock the virtual classroom! The March course opens March 13th, and the first webinar is March 20th.
Advanced Virtual Facilitator (AVF) Course
If you want to leverage the neuroscience of learning to design and facilitate extraordinary online learning experiences, register now for our latest course. We've built this course incorporating 12 brain-based learning principles (six for engagement and six for retention).
Limited to eight participants, the May course is experiential, participatory, and hands-on. Facilitated by Cynthia Clay and Sherry Johnson-Metz, this advanced course requires previous certification in a virtual facilitator course delivered by NetSpeed Learning Solutions (or a comparable virtual training course).
Early registration discount!
Strategies to Reduce Conflict in the Virtual Workplace
This session explores how to resolve conflict in in the virtual workplace. This webinar introduces the practical, proven methods contained in
Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships, by Cynthia Clay and Ray Olitt.
Wednesday, March 13
1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT
Rocking the Digital Workplace: Leading High-Impact Virtual Teams
This session explores how virtual leaders must attend to relationship, reliability, results, and recognition issues as they strive to communicate clearly and build connections across virtual distance.
1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT