Empower your team, get comfortable with not having all the answers, be vulnerable and listen to others.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to adapt swiftly to the new reality of remote work. Since it seems that remote work is here to stay, the need for virtual management and leadership has emerged. Virtual leadership is a form of leadership in which teams are managed remotely. Like traditional leadership roles, virtual leaders focus on encouraging workers and helping teams accomplish their goals. Thus, virtual leaders need to have specific skills to create consistent and efficient communication, transparency, and accountability with the group online.
As uncomfortable as it may feel there is in fact the need to shift from the model of leadership that takes a top-down single-source approach to a model that promotes autonomy, collaboration and inclusion. In remote environments, you can’t be everywhere and hear everything, so learning to let your team solve their own problems and drive the business collectively forwards is key.
For the last six months, everyone is doing their best— no one has a playbook. But those that are thriving are following these five essential tips and tricks which will result in more efficient workflow and improved team spirit.
1 – Establish team goals & guidelines
When you collaborate with your team, it’s vital to create a framework of mutual expectations, rules and goals and stick to them. Body language and social cues, which can be easily grasped in the office setting, are challenging to transmit or perceive not seeing the person face-to-face. To reach the desired outcomes and avoid miscommunication make sure to always set an agenda and expectations. Whatever you decide, let your team know, so they come prepared. Moreover, since you don’t have the opportunity of face-to-face contact, you should check in more regularly than you would in person. Take time to get the idea of your team’s reaction and to know how is your message getting across.
2 – Open the decision-making pool
When you widen your circle of decision-makers and pull in other voices to help navigate the onslaught of short-term decisions that you’ve been faced with, you create solutions collaboratively. This leads to shared ownership and higher engagement, which are equally important in a remote world. You hired people who inspire you, so let them take the reins, tap into the intellectual capacity of your team. It is possible to foster great team dynamics in a remote environment. For example, organise your agenda as a set of questions to be answered rather than a set of topics to be discussed.
3 – Foster team relationships
Building strong relationships is one of the essential things you can do as a virtual leader. Stronger connections will improve culture, collaboration, and engagement levels in your organization. How can you boost team connections when you aren’t even working in the same building? Well, even virtually, you can encourage socializing and give people the same opportunities to build relationships as done offline. One example is to organize a recurring time slot for your team to join a video call to chat. It means no agendas and no work talk. Try a 30-minute happy hour one evening.
4 – Support your team
Virtual leaders need to understand that working remotely can be lonely for team members. Not everyone shares the energy and excitement of working alone at home. As a virtual leader, it is crucial to know how team members are doing emotionally, i.e. asking them how their weekend was or what their current concerns are. Another type of support is showing that despite the distance, their leader and the team members are there to support if needed.
5 – Check yourself
Self-awareness defines your leadership ability to adapt. Knowing how to use vulnerability as strength in uncertainty and increase your self-awareness will enable you to connect with your team. You can still be a grounding force for your team while being open about the emotions you are experiencing. However, keep in mind your team is there to drive the business, not to be your therapist.