Daniel Taylor July 13 2021

How do you become a successful leader in both face to face and virtual situations?

In this blog from Facet5 specialist Daniel Taylor, we explore becoming a successful leader in both face-to-face and virtual situations.

Probably the number one concern I am hearing from my clients at the moment is managing the impact of returning to work, from the perspective of providing the optimal environment for all.

Successful leaders have the ability to ‘tune in’ to the needs of others, being both responsive and flexible but fair at the same time.  Facet5 profiles allow us to develop insight into what drives the individual and understand which approach might work best.  Let’s focus on what each factor might suggest about individual requirements when it comes to a successful workplace environment.

But first, a couple of tips:

1. The Leading Edge profile.

Now if you’re honest, venturing beyond the Family Portrait page of a Facet5 report can be uncharted territory for some, but there is actually some really useful information in there! These pages of the profile tell us, according to the Bernard Bass model of leadership, what our drivers and preferences might be when it comes to successful engagement and performance.  It is written from the perspective of a line manager getting to know their employee.  All of the information is valuable but if you look specifically at ‘Stimulating the Environment’ this could give you some great pointers.  

2. Work Preferences.

The final page in the profile gives insight into motivators and demotivators at work. In particular, you may find descriptions related to the level of supervision a person might require, or how closely they like to work with others. Focusing on the specifics indicated will help you, as a leader, tune in to precisely what that person may require. If we examine each factor, here are thoughts and ideas which might help you navigate some of the challenges to come.  I have used the Spotlight definitions for a change, so there is a specific focus on workplace behaviours.

NOTE: for illustration, I am using behaviours associated with low or high scores.  When a score is a midrange, check first for variations in subfactors but also consider that there is more of a range of behaviours available.  The ‘choice’ of behaviour will relate to the context and the situation which makes people flexible but sometimes less predictable…  

WILL - making decisions and setting goals

If Will defines how likely we are to arrive at our own conclusions without the need to consult and ask for advice, a high score will indicate a strong preference for this. Consequently, I might be quite comfortable working independently, setting my own direction and making decisions by myself. If I have a lower score, there will be much more of a tendency to seek others’ views and advice before I arrive at a conclusion or make a decision. Virtual workplaces make this type of behaviour more difficult; I have to make much more of a conscious effort to consult with people and get the perspectives I need to feel fully informed.  As a leader, tuning in to this need and facilitating a virtual environment where people can share their ideas and opinions might be helpful.  

ENERGY – engaging and consulting with others

Probably the most commonly discussed topic is how lockdown has affected introverts vs. extroverts.  We know that low scorers on Energy are naturally thoughtful, reflective and interact less with others, so how much does a virtual environment suit them?  Those I have spoken with seem happy to work like this, but often still like to have contact with their colleagues.  Interestingly, some have remarked that they feel more at ease working from home and so share more personal thoughts and reflections when on calls.  Surprising, perhaps.

One of the key challenges, I believe, is the tendency for those high in Energy to both miss the buzz of the office but also to sometimes fill their time with too much activity.  High Energy scorers are industrious and like to be busy; as a virtual leader, I may want to check in with them and make sure they are managing their boundaries well.  

AFFECTION – focusing on people and (or) tasks This one is less clear. 

It isn’t as easy to help others in a virtual setting because people’s problems are not as visible; I recall one colleague finding this very difficult to cope with – they had exceptionally high Affection. Virtual environments require more facilitating and conversations in a 1:1 setting can lack the warmth and rapport that they might have in person.  I have had more than one conversation with people who are missing that walk to and from the meeting room, where you can often pick up on the real nuances of how somebody might be feeling; is there really anything that can replace that in a virtual world?  It is also much more difficult to handle sensitive matters via a laptop screen.

If meetings are more transactional, then this is very task-focused and might appeal to lower scorers on Affection.  I’ve noticed that, if a meeting is booked for a particular subject, then that’s what gets discussed, which is great for focus but less so for building rapport and having fun…  I recall a conversation with one client who enjoyed finding out from Microsoft Teams how many interactions they had on any particular day; I think he said he had racked up 14 meetings!!  Whilst I see the advantage I wonder where the time and space is for a genuine exchange of views and deeper understanding.  

CONTROL – managing work and commitments

Now, this one is really interesting.  Low Control scorers value autonomy and individualism, so working from home is likely to be a big tick in that box.  As a virtual leader, there is a responsibility to put frameworks around how work is done including expectations, boundaries and interactions which may work in two ways; the structure will be important to keep focus but it might also feel like an unnecessary straitjacket for some who prefer a less formal way of working.  Lower scores on Control also suggest flexibility of approach, which sets up well for a virtual environment.  I think the trick for the virtual leader here will be balancing the formal vs. informal nature of virtual working.

Those high on Control are likely to be affected in a different way.  The structure is important always, but they are able to plan, organise and work methodically very naturally.  Because of this, self-organisation in a virtual setting may come more easily and there may be less need to monitor and/or supervise them.  The challenge here is different; moving between virtual and office environments means constantly changing how you work; a risk of high Control is being inflexible so it is worth considering how to best support somebody who prefers more routine and predictability in how they work.

EMOTIONALITY – responding to stress and identifying risk

There is no doubt that with high Emotionality comes greater sensitivity and awareness of one’s surroundings. But how can it facilitate working in an agile way? Those scoring high will respond to stress and pressure in a more visible and obvious way, so spotting the signs whether virtually or in-person will most likely be easier.  This will allow you as a leader to take appropriate action and support, listen and empathise.  High Emotionality also means general responsiveness and a strong desire to be one’s best, which means there may be a real drive to make agile working successful and ‘get it right'.

Low Emotionality scorers are generally less worried and anxious about most things; the stresses caused by working in a virtual setting simply may not manifest, so it may be up to the leader to do a bit more digging and ask questions.  There is a tendency with low Emotionality to be optimistic about the future, but this can mask risks and pitfalls which may lie ahead so a leader may need to do more checking in and ensuring understanding.

Remember overall that high Emotionality will enhance the presence of strengths when associated with high or low scores, but also make risks more likely.  Low Emotionality will lessen the impact of strengths overall but mitigate any risks involved (save for low Control).  

What I’ve offered here is a brief tour of the five factors and how some of the key ‘functions’ served by them might manifest in a variety of work settings.  Ultimately, be guided by the conversations you have with your people but use the Facet5 profile to inform your own and their understanding of the demands placed upon us when working in a variety of settings, how we can best manage ourselves and be supported by others.

Good luck!

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