- How can I manage someone who isn’t located at my cubicle?
- How do I recruit a new team member without meeting him in person?
- Is my team tied up or well balanced?
Do any of these concerns worry you? Then, you’re exactly where you should be!
For you to effectively lead a remote team competently, we break down the top 5 skills needed to conquer any virtual team challenges before it’s too late. When it comes to managing a virtual team, these skills can be a real game-changer.
82% of leaders plan to shift to a virtual set-up, for at least some time, predicts Gartner.
While a lot of organizations are clinging to the remote work culture, let’s not brush aside the challenges in leading virtual teams.
When managing a virtual team from multiple geographies, things aren’t always in sync. Communication gets muddled, spontaneous check-ins suffer, and sometimes it’s difficult to understand if employees are playing with full deck or burned out.
But just because leading virtual teams can be stressful, doesn’t mean you can’t ace it.
The key to thriving is to develop an empowering leadership style that makes delegation a top priority, fosters trust, and casts off micromanagement- Which, in turn, translates to enhanced job satisfaction, fueling performances as well as fewer attrition.
Now, how do you lead virtual teams in the new normal?
What are the skills you need to address challenges in leading virtual teams?
For you to effectively lead a remote team competently, we break down the top 5 skills needed to conquer any virtual team challenges before it’s too late.
Top 5 Virtual Leadership Skills for Virtual Teams
The post-pandemic era is here to stay. So is the remote work culture. Those traditional, wishy-washy business approaches won’t turn the trick anymore.
If you want to excel at managing a virtual team, a set of skills can help you get there.
Below are 5 top skills essential to mastering virtual team challenges.
- Emotional Intelligence in Virtual Leadership
- Listening in Virtual Leadership
- Agility in Virtual Leadership
Can you recall the last time you let your team down by misinterpreting their needs?
You might have heard your colleagues saying – “We were not given a detailed briefing”, “It came up at the last minute”, “The discussion wasn’t 2-way. I failed to understand.”
Communication in virtual teams may seem simple but it’s overly complex. We no longer have the luxury of meeting in person. Hence the need for stronger workplace communication is becoming more important than ever.
As virtual leaders, you need to put yourself in your colleague’s shoes to avoid any sort of unforeseen virtual team challenges-
- Practice Brevity- Be specific, upfront, and clear on your expectations.
- Make Conversations 2-Way– As a leader, it’s your job to make your teams feel connected. Ask them how they are doing. Don’t wait for them to walk to you. Make yourself available! Ask questions like- “How do you feel at work?” “Do you think you’re able to balance your work and personal life?” , “Do you feel overburdened? If yes, how can I support you?” Conduct one-on-one sessions with your team members to help them build their confidence.
- Don’t Rely Only on Texting- Managing virtual team challenges via text is a big no-no. There’s nothing more annoying than a text message which leaves your team fogged. These confusing messages often complicate small problems. You need to be smart enough at picking the right channels for communication. For teamwork, brainstorming, and a high degree of coordination, jump on a call. If webcam works for you and your team, even better!
- Plan Team Bonding Sessions- You don’t have to keep talking about goals, deadlines, and strategies day in, day out. Chilling is good too. Especially with the virtual team challenges burgeoning up, your employees definitely need to be listened to. Work, work, and work can sometimes shatter them. Investing in casual interactions will allow you to know them as an individual. Team members, on the other hand, will be at ease discussing their hobbies, fears, likes, dislikes, etc. An absolute win-win!
Communication isn’t just about giving updates. It’s about how you make an impact with your words, actions and behavior.
Effective communication ensures business success. If not done right, it puts down employee morale, customers churn, and long-term associations. To keep everyone on the same page, outstanding communication skills are a big ask!
Emotional Intelligence in Virtual Leadership
Unlike traditional workplace settings, in-person collaborations in virtual teams seem far-fetched. It is practically impossible to read expressions or sense the emotions of your co-workers.
Gone are the days when people would gather in the break rooms, cafeteria or hallway, air their grievances and ask for help. In virtual teams, loneliness and social exclusion is a real challenge.
So, how do you combat virtual team challenges and show empathy towards virtual teams in these testing times?
The answer is Emotional Intelligence!
As virtual leaders, you need to be empathetic, welcoming, and approachable towards your team.
- Practice Hand Holding- Guide your team through their toughest challenges. Discover what makes them optimistic? Identify their best roles. Are they battling productivity- Take a detailed look into these key concerns.
- Share Your Blunders- Create a safe work environment that accepts and acknowledges the fact that it’s OK to make errors. When virtual teams see this happening in real-time, they’re more likely to grow and learn.
- Check In to Make Sure Everyone Is in Complete Accord- A lot of times virtual leaders assign duties and leave them unattended. That shouldn’t happen.Keep an eye on what each team member is up to. Are they encountering blockers? Do they have the required resources to accomplish the task? Don’t waste time scrutinizing how much time your team member is spending on their laptops. Instead, focus on what matters most- the outcome! As long as your team is meeting deadlines, what time of the day they stick to, shouldn’t make a difference.
- Think Through Your Remarks-“Sort out your priorities.” vs. “Take the time to plan your schedule. Let me know what I can do to better assist you.” Can you spot the difference?
When delivering feedback, use a friendly and respectful tone, always. You never know if your team member perceives it incorrectly when you actually intended to help.
If you’re emotionally intelligent in virtual teams, you not only strengthen bonds of trust amongst your co-workers but also make better decisions.
Inclusive leadership is the key to managing a virtual team. Don’t take our word for it?
One of the ways to neutralize virtual team challenges is to create happy virtual teams in an inclusive environment. You need to embed inclusion in your work culture. It has to be a part of your business operation, work ethics, and employee engagement, persistently.
To get started as an inclusive leader, find out what exactly you should do-
- Be Mindful When Delegating Tasks- Are you a biased leader? Do you always prefer top-performers when it comes to assigning huge projects? If yes, you need to tweak your approach. Give opportunities to all team members. Ditch the idea of favoritism. Analyze your team’s strengths and weaknesses before dividing the tasks.
- Be Humble- Don’t just assess your team. Ask your team members to assess you too. Ask questions to understand if they are in sync with your leadership style. Seek opinions. Be open to receiving input from everyone. At times when you don’t have enough answers for their queries. Accept and tell your team that you’ll get back, Don’t leave them hanging.
- Say “No” to Biases- Whether it’s about giving opportunities, taking feedback, accepting ideas, or even training people, treat every team player equally. You must ensure that every member of virtual teams is served fairly.
Listening in Virtual Leadership
You can’t be a great leader without being a great listener.
In a world dominated by Google, Zoom, and Slack interactions, lending your ears can be an outstanding tactic. If you stay attentive, you’ll be able to connect the dots.
Listening is the only secret sauce in virtual teams.
What happens when your team members collaborate on a single platform? New ideas are born. Challenges are put across. Everyone is heard. Right? But do you think it makes sense if you are not a great listener?
In virtual teams, you need to be an active, emotional, and intelligent listener.
- Ask everyone to be a part of the conversation.
- Notice people speaking.
- Reiterate their needs to serve them better.
- Make the time to listen as much as possible.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Use virtual polls.
- Use verbal affirmations like “Really appreciate your efforts.”
- Consider verbal cues to understand individual anxieties and constraints.
- Take one-to-one sessions to discuss glitches.
Agility in Virtual Leadership
Are you a leader who flies off the handle? Or a leader who retaliates?
If you’re the latter one, you’re a leader to watch!
Pandemic taught us agility, resilience, and survival of the fittest. Given the times, virtual teams can fall apart if they do not adapt to change.
If you aim to navigate through the new normal successfully, you need to build an agile mindset. In the present times, agility isn’t only about software development but also testing what works best for you.
Bringing agility to your leadership style, especially in a remote work environment translates to increased engagement and teams with greater autonomy.
How to Be an Agile Leader?
- Co-create the goals together with your team members
- Facilitate a work environment where teams collaborate, make mistakes, and create something out of the box.
- Create a safe learning environment.
- Create a culture where teams feel safe to experiment.
- Reward failure.
In a remote work environment, virtual team challenges are inevitable.
But one thing is for sure- if you keep leaning on a hierarchical style of leadership, you will never be ready to inspire virtual teams for success.
Are you equipped to lead virtual teams?
As a leader, you must be acquainted with skills that go beyond traditional team management and enable you to get the best out of your virtual teams.
In these volatile times, KNOLSKAPE helps you sharpen your skills so you can transform your virtual teams into high-performing units.
Ready to ace the art of virtual leadership?