If you weren’t leading a virtual team the odds are high that you are now! The most serious wave of COVID is here, and there’s more to come. On top of that most companies are embracing the idea of people working from home on a more regular basis.
It’s a changing world and while none of us know what the future holds the signs are there that you will be leading a virtual team in the future.
To succeed you will need a different approach. The benefits of impromptu interactions, team meetings, site visits, conferences, and informal gatherings are gone. If you are leading a virtual team then online is the only option and it’s not the same!
You will need to do things differently.
The most significant change is mental.
You will need to accept that you need to be deliberate about things that used to happen naturally. They will feel staged or forced – because they need to be!! Simple things like getting to know each other, chatting over lunch, going out to dinner, having a drink after work, will not happen organically. You will have to achieve the outcomes and benefits of those things through consciously managed activities.
So here are our top 5 tips for leading virtual teams.
#1 Double the huddle
Virtual teams need to meet more frequently. The simple rule is — “double the huddle.”
If you used to meet weekly then increase it to every second day or three times a week.
It’s harder to concentrate in online meetings. It’s too easy to get distracted. Short, sharp, regular meetings will be far more effective.
You can address different topics – just get the team together for shorter and more frequent meetings.
#2 Reinforce “WHY”
When people work remotely they lose sight of their purpose. They can end up getting bogged down in meaningless tasks.
One of the best things you can do when you are leading a virtual team is to remind them of the bigger picture. Keep them connected with why the company exists and what you are trying to achieve.
Our “Context – Content” model pictured is a simple reminder. Make sure you discuss all three levels.
Context provides purpose, meaning, and “why.” “What” is the objective – and bridges into “how” which is the detail – or content.
When you provide context you are giving meaning to the work people are doing. That’s something they desperately need.
#3 Establish new routines
One of the best things you can do is to set new routines that suit a remote workforce.
- Start the day with a “huddle”. Make the first activity of every day a short team meeting. Give people a reason to be ready for work – otherwise they might develop bad habits.
- Include a “check in”. Get each person to give an update on how they are feeling and what they are doing. It will help you identify people that might need support.
- Set “remote” dress standards. We are all used to getting dressed for work. It’s a “contextual marker.” It tells our brain to switch on. So make sure people know you expect them to “turn up to work” showered and dressed appropriately.
These simple things can make a big difference.
#4 Change your mindset
This is the biggest challenge for leading a virtual team. Change the way you feel about “planned” activities or events.
I know that structuring a “get to know each other” session online can feel forced and unnatural.
Get over it.
The reality of working remotely is that you have to plan these activities. They won’t happen naturally. You need to make them happen unnaturally.
We’ve all done team building activities that were forced, this is just the modern version and it will become the new normal. It’s time to get used to it. We may not all be working remotely forever but someone will. Companies are already accepting that a portion of their workforce will continue to work remotely.
So embrace the awkwardness of “forced” online interaction. It’s the future.
#5 Take advantage of the tools that are available
My favourite is the REACH Virtual Team Companion. It gives guided “step by step” instructions based on personality preferences.
I’m also a fan of:
- The 5 behaviours of a cohesive team from Patrick Lencioni
- The A.D.A.P.T. model for in my book “Cultural Insanity”
If you want to know more give us a call – 1300 551 274
Or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you.