The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way we think about virtual working.
Once a less ‘standard’ or optional working style, the vast majority of us are now working from home.
Though on an interim basis, it’s highly likely that many organisations are now seriously considering utilising remote working for their organisation.
This significant shift has then also changed the role of leaders – from the standard workplace setting to leading your team virtually, from your own home.
Virtual working has its positives and its drawbacks – it’s about finding what works for you and your team.
As Zestfor are specialists in helping leaders strengthen their virtual working skills, now seems like a better time than ever for me to share my advice on how to navigate the challenges of leading a virtual team. So, let’s get started.
1. Be Bold
I’ll start with a piece of advice that all leaders need to remember right now. The current situation is probably the strangest and most unsettling time you are likely to ever experience in your working life, but it is essential to remember that your team need you to guide them.
Mark Zuckerberg once said, “the only strategy that’s guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”.
So remember, there is no rule book for the COVID-19 scenario, and other leaders out there are finding it just as challenging as you, but now is not the time to shrink back under the weight of the pressure.
You will be presented with risks and uncertainties which your team need leading through.
2. Increase Communication
When switching to leading your team virtually, you should have increased the amount of communication you have with your team. Whether that’s a Zoom or Skype call a couple of times a day, plus setting up a message group (on Facebook or Whatsapp) for when your team need to connect with you or each other more urgently.
But it is also essential to remember that a lot of valuable information is shared in the workplace organically, which will now cease to happen.
Instead of being able to walk across the office to chat with a colleague about a client or a current project, newly-remote employees might struggle to find their communicative niche. It’s so easy when working remotely to get into a ‘single worker’ mindset without your colleagues to bounce off.
To combat this, you should increase communications with all members of your team – both separately and in a group setting. Some team members will find it more challenging to speak up in virtual meetings, so one-to-ones with anyone you suspect might be struggling is a must.
3. Changing Delegation
The way your team works remotely might look exactly the way it did in the office. Alternatively, changes might be necessary.
Every member of your team will have experienced a significant change, but some more than others. Perhaps more senior members of the team are now tackling parenting duties too, which ties up more of their time. Or it might be that less experienced individuals who are self-isolating have more time on their hands – now might be the time to delegate extra duties.
Look carefully at each member of your team and how their situation has changed, and delegate accordingly; this might mean a change in duties for some team members. Check-in weekly to see if your team are struggling with their current workload, or if they have the capacity to take on more.
4. Setting the Tone for Change
There will have been significant changes in your company recently – this is a fact. How long these changes will be in place for, and how long will it be before things return to some semblance of normal – no-one knows.
However, even during highly changeable times, you need to be a secure presence in your team.
Stay calm, focused and aim not to dwell on the uncertainty. Instead, reiterate to your team the things you do know, and focus your efforts on the projects you have currently.
As a leader, planning for the future is a big part of where you typically focus your attention, but this is now much more difficult thanks to COVID-19.
Make a plan for the next month, and the next three months, but only include the things that you know for sure such as ongoing projects, clients, and contracts that are a certainty. Share this information with your team and be honest about the rest; you can update them as and when things change.
We have worked with training and coaching leaders of virtual teams for many years, and we understand the importance of knowing where to focus your efforts.
This guide should have alerted you to the main themes to focus on right now as your team adapt. For more information on leading virtual teams, head to our blog, where you will find many useful guides and articles on everything you need to know about virtual working.
For more information on how we can support you to support your team, call 0845 548 0833 or email us.
Until next time,
Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, I.T., and Life Sciences.
Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.