Because of the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing, many companies – rather than closing down completely – have been forced to implement remote working.
- 6 leadership strategies to manage a virtual team
- 1. Keep all team members communicating closely
- 2. Maintain a supportive mindset
- 3. Set out the purpose and objectives of the team
- 4. Define unambiguous performance standards
- 5. Adapt coaching strategies for managing distance
- 6. Celebrate achievements and successes
This poses a new challenge for all employees, but it becomes even more so in the case of project managers and those who are leading a remote team for the first time.
Not having your employees present in the same office and not having a face-to-face contact in an ever-changing market where priorities are constantly shifting, certainly becomes a major obstacle.
6 leadership strategies to manage a virtual team
Many effective management practices with co-located teams can also be applied to virtual teams, but some important changes are still needed to address the unique challenges that a remote team entails.
1. Keep all team members communicating closely
Creating a sense of teamwork is a key factor for the success of a project, especially when team members cannot interact directly with each other.
Regular communication between all is therefore essential to gather people together and promote a sense of inclusion, while at the same time providing continuous opportunities for input and feedback.
Whether it’s video conferencing, email, instant messaging or other methods of contact, team members need opportunities to participate, share ideas and results and continue to communicate smoothly with anyone from anywhere.
2. Maintain a supportive mindset
In a hierarchical organization, competition is often implicitly or directly fostered between individuals, departments and divisions.
In a time when employees are no longer close to their desks, the result could be a shift in mindset that causes the individual to be selfish and no longer focused on the good of the group, damaging the ability to work together for common goals.
This spirit of competition that reigns in every individual must be, even at a distance, kept at bay so as not to undermine teamwork.
The focus must be kept on promoting cooperation in which the interests, talents and skills of all team members are encouraged and emphasized.
3. Set out the purpose and objectives of the team
Remotely, it is difficult for employees who are not used to working in this way to understand their reason of being and their contribution to the organization in general.
Without this understanding, team members are unlikely to be fully involved and motivated at work.
It is therefore important that the manager should regularly remind them of their purpose towards the team and the company, especially when the virtual team members are working individually to perform certain tasks.
4. Define unambiguous performance standards
In the office, each team must meet certain performance standards and expectations and this becomes particularly important in remote work, where the manager cannot directly monitor and control employee behaviour.
This means that the leader must set clear parameters, suggest the sharing of best practices and define the standards against which everyone’s performance will be assessed.
5. Adapt coaching strategies for managing distance
An effective coaching and support is a real challenge for the manager who needs to manage a virtual team.
A remote team leader must set individual and group expectations, monitor everyone’s progress and provide feedback, just as they would in the case of “traditional” office work.
Even remotely, the manager must schedule regular appointments to provide feedback to each team member, for example through a Skype video call – at a time like this, seeing each other, even if online, is surely important.
6. Celebrate achievements and successes
Feeling part of a team means not only working together, but being credited for sacrifices and achievements.
Virtual team leaders should not forget to reward team members for their outstanding performance or achievement, thus reinforcing the collaborative mindset we were talking about earlier.
Surely in this difficult time it is not possible to organize some office party, but the manager can still send a positive signal by sending a collective email to congratulate a successful project or, in the most important cases, send gift coupons as an incentive to maintain high performance.
By implementing these 6 straightforward strategies, leaders who have to manage a team remotely can overcome the barriers that could decrease performance at a time like this.
Because of the Coronavirus, many project managers are facing this challenge.
By working together in the proper way, however, it is possible to continue to create a competitive advantage in a global market that is currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis and where the rules of competition are constantly changing.
Already many organizations, even before the Coronavirus outbreak, have approached remote working and we are sure that, once the situation returns to normal, there will be many more companies that will officially introduce home working into their policy.
So, while managing a remote team is definitely a special challenge, this introduction – more or less forced as it may be – can be an enriching, rewarding and productive experience for the future.