Virtual Coffee – the No. 1 Leadership Skill

“Look Mum, no hands!” – is exactly how I felt when I first moved into a role with the responsibility to achieve great results based on how well I could motivate my team of Account Managers to align with my targets.

I was used to being able to roll my sleeves up and graft away, whatever it took, to get the job done.  All of a sudden here I was with Account Managers spread across the globe, a huge revenue and new business target to hit and I felt like I’d had my arms chopped off.  No longer was I able to jump in and do everything myself; it was crucial to my success to be able to get each and every one of those Account Managers aligned with my vision and engaged to work with me to achieve the end goal.

At first I faltered.  Trying to run global webinars to build relationships and alignment was great – in theory.   The reality was a cacophony of heavy accents (including my Kiwi one), a lot of “excuse me?’’ and “pardon?” ending with a frustrated “I’ll email you”, which did little to endear me to my colleagues or align us with a common goal.

After one of these disastrous webinars I made a beeline for the nearest coffee machine.  As I was waiting for my turn I became aware of the conversations going on around me:  “Did you see the game last night?”, “Did you watch Dallas last night?” (Ok, it wasn’t quite that long ago). But what I realized is that everybody was genuinely engaged in conversation, finding the commonality they shared with their colleagues.  So I took the coffee machine virtual.  Rather than the painful global webinars, I started having regular “coffee chats” with my colleagues (*Tip: World Clock Planner is a godsend when working across time zones).  These were calls with no agenda and no requests, just a genuine catch up with colleagues to build genuine relationships.

This is really one of the first stepping stones to building your Emotional Intelligence.  Why does that matter?  According to Dr Travis Bradberry, 90% of top performers have high Emotional Intelligence.  Leading a team with this as your starting point can be the difference between people doing what you ask because they have to (and half hearted at that) or doing something because they’re aligned with your vision, engaged with achieving the results you want to achieve – effortlessly together.  Anyone for coffee?

Erin Buyers, 3gHR Associate