T-Systems - Virtual Leadership

T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, ‘shapes the networked future of business and society and creates value for customers, employees and investors thanks to innovative ICT solutions’.

In 2012 and 2013 T-Systems commissioned Black-Gazelle Consulting to design and run several Virtual Leadership Programmes as one stand-alone module and as a module part of a broader Leadership Programme.

Participants described a culture, prior to the Virtual Leadership Programme, where there was the clear need to demonstrate a strong task focus, where time spent on reflecting was difficult to find and where relationship building was incidental rather than intentional.

These specific aspects of the Virtual Leadership Programme were described, and the outcomes praised:

The importance of building relationships   

  • Connecting with everyone at the outset.
  • Building relationships beyond simply getting the task done.
  • Ensuring that everyone is heard throughout a meeting. 
  • Managers commented that the style of their meetings had become much more interactive.
  • Need to avoid time pressures in virtual meetings.
  • Jokes and having fun were now seen as a useful element of successful virtual interacts
  • “A really difficult situation was defused by starting with a personal exchange”
  • As one person said “Relationships are all we have”.

Slowing down, using silence and listening differently

  • Managers talked about ‘creative silence’, where space was given for personal reflection before a group discussion, with amazingly positive results.
  • Listening to the silence was described as a new and essential skill – “don’t just fill it!”
  • Breaks were seen as very important in concentrated virtual meetings, and were now definitely no longer seen as a ‘waste of time’
  • Learning to listen to both content and behaviour was a revelation for some. 

Strengthening one’s leadership in the virtual space

  • “WOW” to using feedback as a tool for greater understanding of  how others perceive you,  often differently when you lead virtually
  • “It stimulated me to develop a bigger range of styles to use virtually, and more broadly”
  • ‘I was able to have greater ‘presence’ on the phone. I feel more secure now’.

Virtual Action Learning follow-up

  • “Brilliant! Want more, so much added value”

It does not seem too bold to suggest that the Virtual Leadership module has not only placed successful virtual leadership at the core of T-Systems, but has also started a process of culture change, where the practice of relationship building and reflecting are now valued in a way that was previously seen as difficult within the time pressures of the task driven culture. Now they coexist to the benefit of both tasks and relationships and contribute to better work outcomes in the virtual space.


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