Many managers are used to seeing subordinates in the office on a weekly basis but due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people now work remotely. Many studies have shown that employees are more productive when they have to skip commuting and work from home or a conducive place around.
As a result, there has been a rise in the popularity of remote work, hence, leading virtual teams effectively has never been more important. Irrespective of the location of the team (onsite or offsite) the leadership principles are the same. Managers are to reduce the virtual distance by establishing an environment where members of the team feel psychologically and emotionally connected to the business and to one another.
Tips for leading a virtual team: There are tested and working leadership strategies that are effective in leading employees. Managers have to adapt this leadership approach when it comes to leading a virtual team. 1. Team Operating Agreement. A team operating agreement should be established for a virtual team. This is a document written by the members of a team and it defines the team’s purpose, results, and goals. It includes the agreements for managing work procedures, methodologies, and communication protocols. This will assist the team to know the nitty-gritty of working remotely and decrease challenges as they occur. 2. Leverage on technology that encourages communication In a remote environment, employees do not have the opportunity to walk up to other colleagues to ask questions. Also, a virtual team does not have the environment that closely support building a team and strengthening friendship. When it comes to leading a virtual team with the use of technology, the best thing to do is to keep it simple while equipping the team members with the appropriate tools that encourage communication. standups at the begin of the day which is a way to check-in without micromanaging. Doing this will help to ask and know what employees are doing and also give tips on the way to do it. 4. Streamline Process and Procedures. In a virtual environment, it is ideal to streamline the various work processes. Team members should be involved in assessing the way to get work done as a team. Duplication of efforts are to be identified and the ways to leverage on technology should be discovered. In addition, before new procedures are implemented extensive testing should be done. 5. Ask for employee feedback In a physical office environment, getting the feedback of employees is somewhat easy. This is usually done by conducting regular performance reviews, keeping the office door open or having a suggestion box in the open.
Also, requesting for feedback of employee is just as easy as when leading a virtual team. This can be achieved by hosting virtual meetings, conducting performance review online and distributing online surveys. Getting employees feedback is very important when leading a virtual team. 6. Establish Performance Indicators When employees work from home, it is mostly a common concern from them when the work they accomplished is not being recognized. It is imperative to have a discussion with employees about their expectations when they work remotely. Having a team member dashboard can assist a team member to track, identify and access lead and lag indicators. 7. Provide ongoing training opportunities, online Training of employees should not cease after onboarding. This should be an ongoing exercise throughout the lifecycle of the employee.
When leading a virtual team, online training opportunities can be taken advantage of for employees to participate in. These online trainings include certifications, workshops, and classes. Employees may also be encouraged to independently search for training opportunities in their areas of expertise for which they would be reimbursed. A training reimbursement policy should be established so that the virtual members know how to get their programs approved. 8. Out of sight is not out of mind when it comes to praise In a virtual environment, employees may be forgotten to be praised and thanked for their accomplishment which is always a big mistake as employee recognition is very important in the workplace. Research shows that employees that are not recognized reported being twice as likely to resign in the next year.
Always take note of employees who go above and beyond in a virtual environment. Bonuses and extra paid time off may be considered in addition to recognizing top performing employees with praise. In addition, this should be done in the presence of other team members in order to encourage them.
Studies have shown that virtual teams can outmatch their physical teams when established and managed the right way. Leading virtual teams entails a little bit more than simply managing them. Irrespective of whether a team is exclusively virtual or semi-virtual, a manager has to be able to motivate and influence the team members from afar. While it can be difficult to establish a strong culture that is required of all great teams, some of the tips discussed above can help in building an effective virtual team.