Leading teams remotely is not easy. Under normal circumstances, there would be a transition period for you and your team where you could adapt smoothly. In the case of a global crisis, however, there is no time for that. Your team will rely on your guidance in this difficult situation. This can be challenging if you aren’t familiar with methods and technologies to lead a virtual team. The good news is that you can learn how to lead your remote team effectively!
If you want to help your team overcome the stress of telecommuting and isolation, check out these tips:
Effective management of virtual teams requires frequent and structured communication. Schedule regular meetings, preferably on the same day and at the same time of the week. You must share the meeting schedule in advance and stick to it. Prepare for the meeting, don't stray from the topic and always try to finish on time. Inefficient meetings can be an obstacle; scheduled and structured meetings will help you achieve your goals. It is also a good idea to provide all participants after the meeting with a summary of the meeting.
Minimize the use of email, instead use video conferencing to be able to chat face to face. Encourage team members to plan conversations with each other when collaborating on a project. Instant messaging tools allow you to communicate with team members in a less formal way.
Explain all tasks and processes to your team, not just the high-level objectives. It is not good practice to assume that your instructions are clear and understandable to everyone. Try to be understandable and make notes about everything, they will serve you in the future. Make sure your instructions are specific, measurable, realistic and with a fixed deadline or timeframe.
It is important to pay attention to the details of the tasks and processes that will be used to complete them. Simplify the work as much as possible and make sure the work process is clear, with specifications on who is responsible for what and when. You can do small checks mid-course to assess how things are going and whether your team members need help or guidance.
Always be predictable - establish clear and well understood processes and procedures. It is best to follow a written operating procedure that is transparent to your team.
Indicate the communication procedures to use, when it is appropriate to reply to an email or contact someone via a video call or how to share documents with the team.
Always stick to your schedule. Clarify what each team member should do, then make sure that the individual parts are consistent and fit the big picture.
Remember, you are not just leading a virtual team, but real people! The team is virtual, but the people on it have hopes and fears, ambitions, interests and communication needs. Always be available to them, so that they don't feel isolated.
Be careful about what you say and how you say it, because your words and your voice are much stronger at a distance and it can easily happen that your message is misunderstood. There are fewer recovery options online, so make sure your feedback is always constructive and empowering, not just critical. Ask your team about their challenges and what you can do to help them face them.
Authoritative management does not work in a virtual environment. Show your teams direction, frequently communicate your vision and values to help everyone reconcile with the common goals. Your team will rely more on your guidance than on your management, and you need to make sure you're offering the best help possible.