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How to lead a virtual team successfully?

Leading a virtual or remove team effectively is a learned skill. Anyone can master the skill with practice. This article discusses 10 proven best practices that differentiate the average from the good and great virtual leaders.

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 Tips for Proven Leaders:

  1. Set the right tone. Foster the right virtual team climate. Promote trust, transparency, open dialogue and inclusion.

  2. Establish clear goals and expectations with timeframes and standards - for the individual members and the team as a unit.

  3. 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. Ensure that your team has appropriate and adequate tools, equipment, and resources to function and operate effectively.

  5. Clarify tasks, roles, responsibilities, and new/existing protocols/workflows. Update policies/processes to reflect changes to protocols or workflows that accommodate virtual environments.

  6. Use the right tools to fit the purpose. Use video capabilities (for face-to-face interactions) to resolve conflict and facilitate complex discussions and assignment of tasks. Use the phone to quickly de-escalate an issue that involves one or two persons. Avoid emails and text/IMs to communicate sensitive information/messages that can be easily misunderstood.

  7. 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 their 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Focus on communicating clearly and effectively. Frame and reframe your message for context and clarity.

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