There are countless opportunities for colleagues who work in the same location to connect every day – whether it’s a casual conversation about non-work-related topics, or the chance to celebrate occasions such as birthdays together.
But what happens when you lead a virtual team? It can be very easy to focus solely on the task at hand and unwittingly forget about the holistic needs of every employee – and we all know when someone’s wellbeing is ignored at work how it can spell disaster for their performance and productivity.
So, as a leader of a virtual team, it’s your job to ensure you’re getting the most out of people by looking at how you can translate best practice examples to a virtual office scenario.
Connections are a big focus here: there are many ways you can all connect, but the onus is on the team leader to create the framework for this type of interaction.
Creating Connection Opportunities
The biggest struggles for remote workers are loneliness, collaborating and communicating. So, the key is replicating those opportunities for communication and collaboration in the virtual world, which in turn will impact how united all team members feel.
There are multiple ways you can do this, and what works for one company may not work for another. However, as a basic minimum you should:
- Share information (not just work-related) and get to know each other.
- Set aside time at the start of each meeting for chit chat.
- Ensure you have a social channel dedicated to non-work conversations – your online equivalent of the office water cooler, if you like.
If your virtual team isn’t being led effectively, nor collaborating, then each individual may be tempted to approach the leader with their request because the connection between the members is lacking. This means the leader ends up acting like a switchboard filtering and directing every single question or comment to the relevant person. Not only is this going to have a profound impact on time, it’s also the exact opposite of the type of culture you want to foster to maximise efficiency and make use of everybody’s strengths within the team.
Encouraging teams to talk among themselves, not just about work but chit chat too, and ensuring everyone knows the specialities of the others can minimise dependency on the leader – and of course, the more interdependent the team is, the more connected they are.
Encouraging connections is a real positive for your team’s performance, wellbeing and productivity, but you also need to ensure there are boundaries too. It’s no use asking people to message each other to help solve problems if others are then feeling the pressure to answer emails at all times of the day and night.
This is especially important where team members are operating across different time zones.
That’s why you need to have a robust communications plan in place (which has been read, agreed, and hopefully shaped by everyone on the team).
Questions to consider when formulating the plan include:
- How should the team communicate?
- When it is appropriate to get in touch and how long should you wait for a response?
- What would make that communication easier?
As part of our quest to help leaders become the best they can be, we’ve compiled research and statistics, as well as advice and best practice examples, in our ‘Mastering Successful Leadership in a Virtual World’ White Paper which looks at three core areas of virtual leadership. Click here for more about connecting, as well as insights into motivating and supporting a virtual team.
If you’d like some support in mastering virtual leadership, we have a range of tools designed to enable you (and your team) to achieve success. Call 0845 548 0833 or email for more information.
Until next time,