3 Classic Mistakes Virtual Managers Make

Managers are human and as a consequence are bound to make mistakes at some point during their management career; the real issue is when mistakes happen consistently without any change or adaptation of their management skill, knowledge or attitude.

This then leads to increased costs for many organisations. Why? It is a well-documented fact that many employees who, choose to leave an organisation cite their ‘relationship’ with their manager as the reason.

The data varies depending on which resource you visit. A recent article stated that in some industries this can be as high as 60%. An Accenture study reported that 31% of employees polled didn’t like their boss at all. The report went on to say that 31% also felt a lack of empowerment in their current role.

Clearly these general figures have changed little over the years so something isn’t working? Is it different in the virtual team world?  There isn’t any data yet to confirm if it is better or worse.

When you start to explore the unique way many organisations work in a virtual world, managing a team ‘virtually’ can prove even more challenging.

My experience of working in the virtual team environment over the last 16 years has highlighted some key problem areas. Today I want to cover the three that seem to be the sticking point for many managers.

Letting the media channels drive behaviour


online customer support


It is a pattern we often see. In a world where technology is king it is common for managers not to utilise all of the resources at their disposal to create a connection with their teams.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news and as a manager you need to understand what specific technology to use to engage, motivate, direct and manage your team.

A common theme I often see is having cameras switched off. With over 40% of the human population being visually preferenced it doesn’t make sense to avoid connection in this way.

Alfred Mehrabian currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, carried out research on non-verbal communication. His key findings were as follows:

  • 7% of meaning in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

If your camera is switched off or your voice tone is flat and unengaging it’s no wonder your team meetings or 1 to 1 interactions are not giving you the results you want.

There are multiple ways to interact with your team utilising the technology at hand. All of which will enable to you engage and connect with your team in multiple ways.


Not investing time getting to know your virtual team


Virtual Handshake


This is a common problem we come across. As I mentioned earlier many employees have poor working relationships with their line managers. If this relationship was ‘better’ productivity would increase.

The fact that many team members are in a different building or time zone is something you will have to deal with. Add culture into the mix and it makes senses to focus on your planning and communication capability. Though  the members of your team might have high IQ’s and be at the top of their chosen field they still need managing and leading towards the common goal.

Snatched conversations that happen infrequently and resorting to email constantly doesn’t help. Instead plan regular conversations together and find out what is important to your team members; then have a plan of how to work with that.

Communication challenges and managing different personality profiles was one of the reasons I immersed myself in learning the Insights model to a level where I could utilise its power and share it with the teams I train. Understanding that each member of your team has different ‘patterns’ of behaviour  will enable you to work with their unique personalities in the way you interact to improve communication and then subsequently create better personal and professional relationships.


Avoiding difficult conversations


Business woman sitting in the office in front of the laptop

At some point or another we all find ourselves in situations where we need to have a conversation that isn’t easy. Even the best manager could fall foul by sending an email rather than picking up the phone or pressing send on a last minute text cancelling a scheduled meeting.

What is the message you are sending when you cancel a meeting in this way and how often are you doing it?

I have posted before about handling difficult conversations, with some key strategies that work. However in a virtual setting the situation gets compounded by what we have discussed already.

No wonder feedback and coaching don’t happen consistently and consequently performance issues develop.

In an ideal world coaching and developmental feedback would happen face to face. In the virtual world most of my clients live, this isn’t always possible.

Therefore you need to have a strategy in place so that regular conversation and dialogue happens. Utilise the technology and your communication skills and plan accordingly and watch what happens.

What about your challenges? Does this resonate with you? Just add a comment below and if this article has been useful please hit share or like.

Until next time,


Julia Carter