Leading for Possibility: How To Support Your Virtual Team

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Leading for Possibility: How To Support Your Virtual Team

By Kathryn P. Haydon


As I’ve been checking in with clients over the last month, I’ve heard a common challenge cited again and again. It is DIFFICULT to keep the team on the same page when everyone is working from a different context, each with unique challenges and constraints.

​​How do you lead a virtual team to thrive, and not just survive in this strange and uncertain time? 

How do you unite your team in a virtual culture of growth and high-level thinking?

Here are five first steps to start priming your team–and yourself–for robust remote thinking. 

1.Keep Communication Open. 

Now is the time to over-communicate. Check in each day or each couple of days, with a question or even a bit of humor or inspiration. Never underestimate the power of a beautiful image or a funny meme. Reiterate your “open door policy” and respond quickly to employee outreaches via email, messaging, and phone. 

2. Space Meeting Schedules. (Or, don’t be a Zoom hog.) 

Do not schedule meetings all day long. You do not want screen-sick employees sitting in from of Zoom or Teams for hours on end, especially those who aren’t used to working virtually. Employees with kids at home especially need breaks to tend to their children. Don’t assume they have a spouse or nanny to do this work. Kids at home right now needs lots of hugs, help with homework, and other things like lunch. 

Suddenly Faced With Working From Home With Kids? You CAN Thrive! Here’s How

3. Be Clear on Goals. 

Especially in the midst of uncertainty, give your team clear directives. Leaders need to be decisive guides. Consensus-building may be your typical MO, so it’s ok to view a more direct leadership style as temporary. 

4. Stay Flexible. 

In the midst of changing circumstances and government directives, dial down your expectation of what a work day looks like. Employees may be dealing with many additional personal issues with families at home, family members losing jobs, etc. They may need to adjust work days to fit work in the morning or at night when the house is quiet. 

You Might Also Enjoy: Leading Creative Teams Can Be Like Herding Tigers. Todd Henry Helps Us Do It Well

5. Encourage Downtime. 

I’ve often asked corporate groups, “Where are you when you get your best ideas?” No one ever has responded, “When I’m working at my desk in the middle of the open office.” Typical answers include: in the shower, running or walking, lying in bed, driving, or listening to music. The best solutions to problems often occur in this “incubation” space, that space when you’re not fully thinking about the challenge. Encourage your team members to seek out this incubation time. Are there tabled projects they could take up, or new possibilities they could pursue once they are settled with a work-from-home flow? 

For those leaders who continue to have a growth-focus for their teams, this time of crisis offers a silver lining of possibility. There is huge potential for new ideas,  approaches, and solutions to emerge in the margins that will be game-changers going forward. Take advantage of this time to help your team members keep thinking forward toward possibility. The teams that engage in highest-level thinking–creative thinking–can more forward through sticky challenges. They will be primed to anticipate the next one.

For more ways to support your virtual team, grab your electronic copy of The Non-Obvious Guide to Virtual Meetings and Remote Work. Sparkitivity founder Kathryn Haydon contributed a chapter to this book, along with 50 other top experts. (Available 4.23.20!)


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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