View this email in your browser

Hello, Enthusiast!

Here is your semi-monthly dose of evidence-based insight and timely ideas to help you take your practice to the next level.

Video Session:

Prefer to learn about virtual intelligence by video? Here are the cliff notes:

What is virtual intelligence? Dr. Scott Dust breaks down the four dimensions of virtual intelligence: establishing guidelines, effective execution, building relational trust, and building competence-based trust.

Evidence-Based Insight

Topic: Virtual Intelligence: A Critical, Ability-Based Intelligence for the Hybrid Environment

When it comes to success at work, everyone understands the importance of IQ—one’s intelligence quotient or general mental ability. Next came EQ—one’s emotion quotient (or emotional intelligence), which is still widely acclaimed as a key ingredient of success in the 21st century work environment, especially for knowledge workers. Now, in the “new normal” of hybrid work, we have yet another “Q” to consider. Namely, VQ, or virtual quotient (herein call virtual intelligence).

I did a deep dive into the research to uncover the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidance on what exactly
virtual intelligence entails. Many of us have lived out an experiential crash course on virtual leadership and virtual teaming during the pandemic. It’s time to take a step back and think more strategically about our opportunities for development.


Are you ready for virtual work? Take this assessment to find out your virtual intelligence scores. Then read on to start reflecting on what you need to address.

Setting the context of virtual work

Before diving into the four dimensions of virtual intelligence, it’s important to first consider why, exactly, virtual intelligence is important. Virtual work presents a paradox in that it makes work more efficient but it also makes work more complex.

Virtual work is a continuum, not a dichotomy. In some settings, everyone is working 100 percent virtually. In other settings, only a few colleagues are virtual. And in many cases, there is a mix of co-located and virtual colleagues. Further, virtual work is dynamic such that a group of colleagues might have a different virtual arrangement on any given day. This ever-evolving, day-to-day variation is what makes virtual work so complex.

Virtual work entails using an assortment of tools to facilitate teamwork. With this increase in tools comes more optionality for how those tools will be employed. And with this optionality comes more variation in how those tools are used and whether they are used well. Two virtual intelligence dimensions address this challenge, namely, establishing guidelines and effective execution.

Establishing Guidelines

In some respects, it’s easier to find time to talk when we are working face-to-face in an office. We can stop by anytime to check in, ask a question, or carve out a meeting time. But when working virtually, it’s harder to tell if and when colleagues are available. It’s also harder to decide which communication medium is ideal given the circumstances. Along those lines, there are three things you can do to establish communication guidelines with your colleagues.
1.) Frequency and Cadence – Proactively discuss how often (i.e., frequency) and when (i.e., timing, pattern) you’ll communicate with colleagues. In many cases, impromptu conversations are enough. In others, a regular check-in is ideal.
2.) Information Sharing – Proactively determine what medium will be used to share information, in what format it will be shared, and where the shared information will be located for future access. We spend far too much time searching for information co-created with virtual colleagues.
3.) Medium-Task Fit – Proactively discuss with colleagues what medium you’ll agree to use for different types of tasks. Here’s a quick guide: instant message for confirmations or getting set up for more elaborate communication; email for clarifying information and distributing in-depth information; phone for complex information where visuals don’t add value; video for complex information where visuals add value; and face-to-face for co-creation activities.

Effective Execution

When working virtually with colleagues, several behaviors are essential to ensuring a high-quality experience.

1.) Virtual Experience – Face-to-face communication is the most stable. All others have opportunities for glitches. It’s important to speak up regarding your virtual experience and inquire about the virtual experience of others. Confirming audio and video quality or the ability to view on-screen material, etc., can go a long way in maintaining a high-quality experience.
2.) Virtual Medium Adjustments – Sometimes conversations with colleagues don’t go as expected—we need more time, information, or clarity. Speak up and make adjustments in the moment. Don’t wait and let the experience get watered down.
3.)Virtual Information Recording – Speak up at the beginning of sessions with colleagues to co-determine how information created during the session will be recorded and where it will be stored. A great deal of information is lost during virtual sessions, primarily because there is no cohesive plan in place.

Another challenge in virtual work is that it’s harder to build trust. Decades of virtual research illustrate that this is the case. Importantly, this obstacle is not insurmountable. When done right, virtual interaction acts as an efficient substitute for face-to-face encounters. This challenge sets the stage for the other two virtual intelligence dimensions, building relational trust and building competence-based trust.

Building Relational Trust

Building relational trust, whereby you look out for each other’s best interest, is challenging in virtual settings. This is primarily because there are fewer opportunities for informal, impromptu conversations. Virtual conversations tend to be highly structured, typically in increments of 30 or 60 minutes. Further, there’s never enough time to fit in the professional conversations, let alone the personal conversations that facilitate relational trust.

Why is relational trust so important? It’s a critical team attribute that dictates a host of team processes including psychological safety, information exchange, and constructive controversy. Said simply, teams will fail without relational trust.

1.) Allocate time – Building relationships takes time. It’s an investment. Although it might seem supplemental to the “real work,” it’s actually the foundation that allows the real work to be done well. 
2.) Share Information About Your Life – Be thoughtful and strategic about the information you share with others. When given the opportunity, use it wisely.
3.) Create Opportunities for Others to Share Personal Information – Never put others on the spot. Not everyone wants to share. Instead, consistently “create opportunities” for colleagues to share as much as they are comfortable sharing.

Building Competence-Based Trust

It’s also important to build competence-based trust, which entails believing that one another is capable and reliable. When working remotely, it’s more challenging to get a clear view of where and how colleagues add value to the organization. It’s also easier to “drop the ball” when communication is scattered across virtual mediums.

1.) Clarify Your Competence – Don’t hesitate to explain to colleagues what you believe to be your key skills or abilities. This ensures that others understand how you will best contribute to team efforts. Share your experiences, but do so without ego. There’s nothing worse than the colleague who introduces themselves to new team members with a laundry list of accomplishments.
2.) Timely Responses - The easiest way to degrade competence-based trust is to be slow to respond. Set expectations upfront on turnaround times. Worst-case scenario, always acknowledge receipt and then articulate existing priorities.
3.) Keep Others Up to Date – Another common challenge with virtual interaction is the lack of closure on specific conversations. Did they see my message? Are they ignoring me? Are they still working through the next steps? Giving regular updates is paramount.

Final Thoughts on Virtual Intelligence

Virtual interaction at work is ubiquitous. Although many of us are already quite comfortable interacting with colleagues through Slack or Microsoft Teams, most of us haven’t yet taken stock of the skills that will be necessary for the future of work. Virtual intelligence will soon be at the top of the list. Those that hone their virtual skills will have the advantage—it’s time to develop the skills that matter.

The Self-Leadership Experiment:

check out the latest blog posts

Next Steps

Good luck out there!


Scott Dust, Ph.D. is the Raymond E. Glos Associate Professor of Management at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University. He is also the Chief Research Officer at Cloverleaf, a technology platform that facilitates coaching insights for everyone.
Check out my website
Copyright © 2022 Scott Dust, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp