Virtual is not physical…

… and team connection and productivity will not automatically continue just because you’ve become more comfortable with it.

As most of us have had to step into the new reality of virtual working, it continues and will continue to pose challenges for business leaders. Virtual is not physical, and team connection and productivity will not automatically continue just because you’ve become more comfortable with it. While virtual teaming is affording many benefits, it does present a higher risk of misalignment, lack of effective collaboration and ultimately the disengagement of the team

Here are nine principles to consider, to go from being comfortable with virtual leadership, to mastering it:

The mid adult female doctor reviews her patient's records on her computer in her office.

Re-ignite your team’s purpose & clarify roles

While often ignored, continually revisiting your purpose and team roles is vital to virtual teams and will drive direction and provide a sense of belonging. These tasks become even more important for leaders when moving to virtual with a need for a greater intentional, clear and structured approach.

Empathize, be Authentic, Care

The well-being of your team members is critical to their engagement. In a pandemic situation, where there is a huge amount of uncertainty and fear, employees are not in fact just looking for clarity from leadership. They are also seeking reassurance and encouragement. And if this personal and emotional connection doesn’t happen, communication may feel inappropriate or insufficient and employees will lose trust in their leadership.

Train Time Management

It doesn’t appear that that life will get back to normal anytime soon, so how your team manages their time is extremely critical. With so many families working and schooling from home, a lack of time management skills will lead to increased stress and anxiety, as well as several other unintended results. Processes like “Time Blocking” are imperative to learn in order to ensure the team stays on course.

Track capacity & progress

Awareness of your team’s individual and collective capacity and having a continuous overview of task progression is key to engagement and productivity. However, getting it right requires extreme discipline and consistent use of technology.

Leverage technology to collaborate

Speaking of which, 70% of business professionals expect the use of online collaboration platforms to increase in the future. Virtual teams truly need to explore and incorporate technology into their ways of working to succeed. The team needs to consciously create and construct a cyberspace environment that supports required communication tasks. The time to invest is now.

Be visible & check-in frequently

Virtual distance can lower your team member’s trust by 83%, the ability to innovate by 93%, and engagement by 80%. To counter this distance, you need to make yourself regularly available.

Strategically over-communicate

Leaders often question how they should communicate with their teams virtually, which typically results in radio silence. However, there is no such thing as communicating too much when it comes to virtual leadership.

Empower & promote self-leadership

Leading remotely presents a paradox, as you need to keep the full overview, but you cannot lead everything all at once. Instead, you will have to build trust with, and empower your team to, take action and initiative to keep the wheels turning.

Beware of the mixed office/remote culture

As offices start to open, your team is going to have, or is having mixed feelings about coming back to work. Many will want to continue to perform their responsibilities remotely. When your entire team is remote you will adjust more easily because you have to, and you will be forced to implement strategies that work for a remote team. However, when you have half of the team in an office and the other half remote it can cause problems. For example, your office team might decide to hold a quick meeting and leave out the remote team members who end up not having their voice heard. No matter what you try to from a technology standpoint, those who are not there feel disconnected.

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