10 Best Practices for Leading Virtual Teams Effectively Amid COVID-19 Crisis
While remote working is not a new phenomenon, the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in many organizations shifting the majority, if not all of their workforce to virtual work environments.For people leaders, leading teams through a crisis is a challenge in itself, let alone to do it remotely. Managing remote worker presents unique challenges around connectivity, engagement, productivity and care of employees.Implementing better practices can help team members adapt better to a virtual environment, reduce stress for both the leader and team members and minimize loss of productivity and employee engagement.
10 Best Practices & Tips for Virtual Leaders
1.0 Set the right tone. Foster the right virtual team climate. Promote trust, transparency, open dialogue and inclusion.
2.0 Establish clear goals and expectations with timeframes and standards - for the individual members and the team as a unit.
3.0 Establish a rhythm and a system for your team to stay on track, informed and engaged. As an example, use daily/weekly virtual huddles.
4.0 Ensure that your team has appropriate and adequate tools, equipment, and resources to function and operate effectively. Not all technology tools are equally effective or appropriate. Make sure the tools fit the purpose. As an example, Trello may be easier to jump start a team new to virtual collaboration with an easy, fun, visual-centric project management tool to help the team interact and collaborate on a design or creative project whereas Asana may be more appropriate to foster a rigorous project workflow and apply a more disciplined project management methodology, and is more effective for a task-driven project with hard deadlines. Asana has richer functionality but the learning curve is steeper.
5.0 Clarify tasks, roles, responsibilities, and new/existing protocols/workflows. Update policies/processes to reflect the shift to a virtual working environment. Traditional, on-premise or in-person processes do not always naturally support a virtual environment. You should review critical and high-value chain workflows with your teams and modify them accordingly.
6.0 Actively listen for signs to ensure that members who are struggling with a virtual work environment get the support, and/or training they need. Recognize that remote working is not for everyone. Learn about your team member's individual and group remote work experience and determine what is working and what is not - to make improvements. It is normal for some members to feel isolated and frustrated.However, if feelings of frustration and isolation increase or continue after remedies are implemented, seek guidance from your HR or manager.
7.0 Focus on communicating clearly and effectively. Frame and reframe your message for context and clarity. Remember frequency does not equal quality, and likewise, quality cannot supplant the number of times you "meet virtually". Every team and team member has different needs. Communicate as often as you need with some team members because some will need more frequent touch points.
8.0 Promote team bonding. Reinforce a sense of belonging.Help team members stay connected with each other and other work groups in the organization.Bridge and broker interactions. Install a virtual water cooler.
9.0 Check-in with your team regularly. Make sure your team is aware of the work that is ongoing in other work groups and departments to help them stay connected with the bigger picture and the company.
10.0 Don't forget to give your team recognition and feedback. In this regard, out of sight must not be out of mind. Demonstrate confidence and trust through words and actions - in your team to achieve their goals. Give prompt feedback as needed to remediate performance that do not meet expectations. Recognize accomplishments and celebrate milestones in group settings.
Print these tips and make a conscious effort at the start of each day to practice these daily habits and you will, in no time, master the skill of leading a virtual team.
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Arete Advisors is a management consulting firm with specialties in leadership developmengt, talent development, organizational effectiveness, cultural transformation, organization change management and interim management. The firm has helped numerous clients in various sectors implement virtual team solutions on a global, national and international scale.
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