Leading from home has undergone a radical transformation. It shifted from a nice-to-have to a must-have, and everything has changed.

Enter the pandemic, and we know that women with children are struggling. According to Harvard Business Review, a whopping one in four women are considering downsizing their careers because of the strains remote work is putting on them.

Geraldine Ree-experienced SVP, mentor, facilitator, and speaker

Guest post by Geraldine Ree. Bio and website below.

Sadly, they are not alone.

Have you ever felt like an outsider looking in on your own organization? If you’re a minority in any sense of the word (such as gender, race, religion, age, education, sexual orientation, kids, or no kids), the voice inside your head at some point says, “No one sees the world the way I see it. My opinion doesn’t belong here.” If the voice persists and gets loud enough, it eventually evolves to say, “I don’t belong here.”

The minority effect occurs when voices are silenced for no reason other than feeling outnumbered. In a virtual world, cameras create new minorities: “My apartment isn’t big enough,” “My eyesight isn’t good enough,” “My kids aren’t quiet enough,” and so on.

The impact of isolation – also referred to as the “silent pandemic” – is profound. The World Health Organization states that isolation is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Solving communication is critical to combating both physical and mental isolation. Leaders need to find a way in to level the playing field of perspectives and opinions.

There are a few simple things leaders can do to improve each person’s sense of belonging:

  1. Be consistent. Commit to regular check-ins beyond the weekly or biweekly one-on-one meeting. We cannot solve isolation by throwing a meeting at it.
  2. Find the right way in. Each one of us has a preferred communication method, time, and place for those casual back-and-forth connections. Whether it’s by text, Slack, Messenger, WhatsApp, or Zoom, do what works best for the other person.The goal of finding a casual connection point is to convert it into a phone call where people are still inclined to open up.
  3. Make it professionally personal. Find out what’s really going on by making it warm and professionally personal. This is a tough one because a personal call can feel disingenuous. Professionally personal, on the other hand, explores what lights a person up, which may or may not be part of their role. Uncovering what they are really passionate about can be a cup of sugar to their soul. Ask, “What difference do you want to make in the world?” Or, “What did you do this week that made the biggest difference for you?”
  4. Be congruent. If you care about a person when you speak with them one-on-one, but don’t support them or their point of view during the next meeting, this can be even more isolating as it reinforces the minority effect.
  5. Make it short and sweet. Often, we dread reaching out to people because we worry about it bleeding into our busy calendar. A short, ad-hoc call can be powerful.My retired mother, who had nothing but time on her hands, would call me in the height of my day. She was upbeat and had any number of reasons for the call. What stood out for me was that she was always the one to end the call. It made me so happy to hear from her as I knew it would be short and very sweet.

Owning the way to communication is empowering as a leader. It is the key that unlocks fresh, balanced perspectives. It creates inclusiveness that can be trusted and moves the entire team forward.

Are you a leader and looking to take your virtual meetings to the next level? I can help!