women sitting at desk on a Zoom call with 6 other people on the computer screen

Leading Effective Virtual Teams: Characteristics for Success

The debate over whether to continue working remotely or return to full-time work in the office has been a hot topic since the pandemic in 2020. Because of this, a lot of companies have resorted to remote working and have closed their offices in an effort to save money and increase productivity by allowing employees to work from home.

This new dynamic has led managers to wonder if they will be able to maintain the hierarchical relationship they had with their employees in the old office environment.

Here are some of the competencies managers of remote teams remote managers should master to build high-performing teams in the remote working environment:

  • Leadership
  • Building Trust
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Delegation
  • Team Unity
  • Being Approachable
  • Delegate

Virtual Leadership

All types of leaders, managers, and supervisors are adapting to the new world of Zoom chats, Slack conversations, and countless learning curves with new forms of communication technology. Leadership in this new environment requires the same qualities you demonstrated in the office, but with a new approach. Now you need to utilize technology as an ally to accomplish your goals. 

We are well equipped to lead remotely thanks to the communication technology at our disposal. Furthermore, it is a good idea to consider brushing up on your project management or business leadership skills, which can help you to approach your role with ingenuity.

Building Trust

Building trust in an unfamiliar virtual environment can be a challenge for remote leaders. You have to promote yourself in a new way than when you did in the office setting. While setting clear expectations, and placing value on your employees, can be an effective way to build trust. Furthermore, it is always best to be readily available for your team if they are in need of your assistance. Just like having an “open-door policy” you can now tell your team you have an “open Zoom policy,” but with clear boundaries of how that will work for you.

Communication

Communicating through an app all day is new and exciting, but there are some potential pitfalls to keep in mind with virtual communication. There are more ways to communicate than ever before, which may make your team members feel like they have to be “on” all the time. Be sure to set communication boundaries, and respect the division between home lives and work lives for your team.

It’s also important to be mindful of what you're saying and how you're saying it. Never assume your team understands exactly what you mean. It’s very easy to misinterpret someone’s true meaning over Slack, and body language is more difficult to read in a virtual meeting. Remember to be mindful of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Even in casual virtual check-ins, making the extra effort can go a long way. Starting off a conversation with “good morning,” or adding a smiling emoji can make all the difference. It is also best practice to convert difficult subjects to a video conference room. Having face-to-face interaction can make all the difference.

Organization

Staying organized is the heart of running a successful virtual team. As a leader, if you are not organized, your team will most likely not be organized either. Some steps to take to stay organized is to make sure your workspace is organized. An organized workspace can give you the ability to think clearly as well as keep things in their designated areas that you need quick access to. Another suggestion is to write everything down. Regardless of if you have a computer that organizes your whole schedule for you, the act of writing down your tasks and meetings will help your brain actively remember what comes next each day.

Team Unity

Team building activities are essential for maintaining relationships and fostering a fun atmosphere in a new virtual environment. Organizing regular meetings as a way of building unity among team members is beneficial. While making them fun and innovative you can also involve your employees in leading those meetings with new insights and ideas. Playing online games with your whole team virtually, such as virtual Family Feud, online trivia, or holding a virtual scavenger hunt, can all help promote team building and give your team a chance to get to know each other.

Being Approachable

Now that you work from home full-time, your employees may feel a little shut out from being able to ask you if you are busy. In order to stay in touch with your employees, you should periodically keep them updated on how your day is going or simply share your work calendar so they know when you are free.

Delegate

Leaders of virtual teams can sometimes feel like you feel alone, or unable to ask for support from their team. Delegating your team can take a lot of stress off of your plate and give you and your team time back for other things. It is smart to establish your expectations with your team from the start and give specific duties to those you know will excel. This is where understanding each person and their personalities of where you feel they excel more than others is important

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