Empathy is a key skill for team leaders today, especially if we are working remote and may not be present every day. It is important to recognize that the touchpoints you have with each person may seem augmented/expanded as they do not see you every day.
To empathize is to listen, and to be present for your team members. Notice your own defaults in terms of how you are available to different team members in different locations. To empathize does not always mean to agree or to solve a problem. Many times remote team members want to know that leaders are their and can hear their concerns. Asking remote team members questions which probe into their needs (is it to listen? Problem solve together? Brainstorm? Come up with options) and their recommendations is important.
Sometimes team members just need to talk through issues. In moving to a culture where team members are empowered, virtual team leaders must hone their skills in listening and asking questions. Questions should not be geared to immediately problem solve (for the leaders part) but rather to help the employee who is on the ground problem solve This may be done by asking question which help to expand awareness, challenge assumptions, make connections or facilitate action.
Another series of skills which are critical to virtual team leader success is in the area of Emotional Intelligence. In general, EI consists of more than twenty skills in the areas of relationship awareness, relationship management, self-awareness, and self-management. These skills range from optimism, to team leadership etc. Take a look at past posts around Emotional Intelligence
Questions to consider:
How empathetic are you?
How empathetic do your staff perceive you to be?
In upcoming conversations notice how present you are and what questions you are using to help boost awareness, and action on the art of your team members.
Take a look at the area of Emotional Intelligence. What skills are you strong in? What could benefit from some attention?