Leading remote teams is not easy, especially when you have to switch to working from home suddenly from one day to the other. In normal circumstances there would be a transition period for you to prepare yourself and your team for the different circumstances, but in the case of a global crisis there is no time for that. Your team will look to you for guidance with everything, and this can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with the right methods of managing virtual teams. The good news is that everyone can develop the skills to lead remote teams effectively!
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What are the key leadership skills that make a good virtual team leader?
Efficient remote team management requires frequent and structured communication. Schedule regular meetings, ideally the same day and time each week. You should also share the meeting agenda in advance and stick to the points. Prepare well for a meeting, don’t stray off topic and always try to finish on time. Ineffective meetings are a hindrance, only schedule meetings that help you accomplish your goals, not just because they are on the calendar for show. It is also a good idea to provide a post-meeting summary to everyone.
We are encouraged to use all modern technologies to communicate with each other, but it is essential to have clear agreements on communication protocols. Minimize the use of email, use video conferencing instead so you can talk face to face. Encourage team members to schedule conversations with each other when they collaborate on a project. Instant messaging tools allow you to check-in with team members in a less formal way.
Clarify tasks and processes, not just goals and roles. Don’t assume that your instructions are clear; have team members summarize their assigned tasks before they take them on. Rather overcommunicate than leave your team in the dark. Be extra clear and write everything down, so they can refer to it when they require guidance. Ensure instructions are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
It’s important to focus more attention on the details of task design and the processes that will be used to complete them. Simplify the work to the greatest extent possible, and make sure that there is clarity about the work process, with specifics about who does what and when. You can do check-ins to evaluate how things are going and whether your team members need any help or guidance, but don’t end up practicing virtual micro-management!
It’s better to follow a written operating procedure that is transparent with your team. Always be predictable: set clear and well-understood processes and practices. Include guidelines on which communication modes to use in which circumstances: when it is appropriate to reply via email or contact someone with a video call, or how to share documents with your team.
Companies should be governed by policies and procedures first, and only then by people. Authoritarian leadership doesn’t work in a remote environment. Show direction to your team, communicate your vision and values frequently to help everyone align with the common goals. Your team will look to you for guidance more than they will look to you for management and you need to make sure you give them the best help that you can!
Remember you are not only leading a remote team but real people! The team is virtual, but the people in that team have real hopes and fears, ambitions, interests and communications needs. Always be available to them, so they won’t feel isolated!
Watch what you say and how you say it, as your words are much more powerful remotely and your message is easy to be misunderstood. There’s less room for correction online, so make sure that your message is always constructive and empowering rather than just critical. Ask your team about their challenges and what you can do to address them together!
Consistency, clarity, predictability and empathy – focus on these to make your virtual team more effective. Always be consistent with your schedule, be clear about what each team member needs to do, and then make sure the parts fit together in line with the overall vision. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, be an empathetic leader and empower your people!
lead your remote team effectively on our specialized interactive workshop!