Managers can become easily frustrated with managing virtual teams. At times of disruptive change, managers who step up to the challenge become game changers in the field. There is no better time than now for managers to step up, show resilience, model balanced behaviors and adapt to change.
At time of disruptive change, communication can get quite disorganized, and issues with collaboration and accountability may be magnified. With virtual teams, the out-of-sight concept can challenge your need to control, whether you consider yourself an experienced or inexperienced manager. Ambiguity regarding what’s next, your message and clarity of tasks can be overwhelming. It is difficult to quickly grasp the concept of providing your team with too little, or too much, when you cannot visually be present to evaluate your familiar workspace.
Based on what we are facing today, managing remote teams is our new reality, and the goal is to quickly adapt to the change.
Remote work has been shown to both increase productivity and lower attrition. Research shows that employees working remotely tend to waste less time, focus more, ask less for sick leaves or prolonged breaks. Some studies depict that home-based employees tend to work longer hours due to the unforeseen challenge of forming balanced boundaries.
Let’s examine the top three challenges you may encounter with remote employees. According to Harvard University, the three issues pertain to communication, trust, and productivity. Surprisingly, they are not different from what you face within the office reality.
The three issues managers face pertain to communication, trust, and productivity.
You are the leader and it is your responsibility to promote a culture of open communication. Model what you preach. Provide your team and key stakeholders with timely updates. Make check-ins with your team part of your daily work routine. The shadow of the leader is a powerful phenomenon and when you create healthy habits, and model expectations and hold clear standards of communication, your team will follow. Control your tendency to react to every email and to write one for every idea you get.
Encourage your team to meet regularly through video conference. According to a recent Harvard article, virtual face-to-face meetings can help build a sense of community. Your role is to ensure that the team is working on shared goals. Clarity around outcomes is necessary to mitigate conflicting priorities. Alignment is essential for collaboration to sustain among teams.
As the manager, you want to make sure every team member is doing what they are expected to do. As such, set clear expectations for each role and have regular check-ins to assess progress. Create a visual map of your goals and targeted milestones. Focus on week by week deliverables, not day by day. Make your expectations clear and recognize accomplishments and reaching key milestones.
Consider some value added habits which I have gathered from my clients through the years:
- Write down your 3-month goals and weekly tasks to meet them. Guide your team to do the same. A great read is: The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months.
- Co-create a weekly team-driven to do list with your team and ensure agreement and commitment.
- Jot down areas of opportunity, and conversations you may be avoiding, with specific team members.
- Identify one person you want to appreciate for doing something right each week.
- Plan virtual, video meetings with your team. Encourage them to show up on screen.
- Clarity is key. Keep your three-month goals in check. Share them, make them part of your daily conversations and adjust your to-do list on a regular basis.