How can leaders help their teams thrive in a virtual workplace? This week in our blog post series the Certified Work Performance Assessor and NLP Coach Dr. Evi Prokopi is sharing her thoughts on the characteristics of Responsible virtual leaders. Especially in the Corona crisis. Effective communication and building trust with and within the virtual teams by relying on technology is one of the key elements of Responsible Leadership in a virtual workspace for her. In line with the point that responsible leaders have to make sure of a safe working environment free of any kind of discrimination. And including that responsible leaders are also responsible for creating the leaders of tomorrow.
Nowadays, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working is more common and will eventually become the new modus operandi. This means that team leaders need to learn how to communicate effectively and build trust both with and within their virtual teams by relying heavily on technology.
How can leaders help their teams thrive in a virtual workplace?
In order to lead virtual teams effectively and responsibly, we need to remember how good collaborations work. Collaborations are based on mutual trust that is built on the common ground we identify with each other. When we are not colocated with others, we build common ground based on communication style, sense of humor, respectful exchange of opinions, lifelong learning, and other nonvisible traits.
Responsible virtual leaders share the following characteristics:
- They know exactly what skills their team members need to have, and they make sure that people are properly onboarded and trained.
- They get to know each one of their team members in order to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then they help the team members increase their self-awareness so they can develop both personally and professionally.
- They understand that it is of paramount importance to distinguish who is a good addition to the team and who is not. Teams need people who are flexible and can adapt to a potentially multicultural workplace, have high emotional intelligence, and can communicate well across cultures and time zones, showing the utmost respect to everyone no matter how close they work together.
- They know that engaging remote team members is one of the major challenges a remote team leader can face, and this is why they build strong relationships by organizing and facilitating both 1:1 and team meetings.
- They care for their people, and their people’s goals and ambitions. This is why they give frequent and productive feedback and ample opportunities for development. Because they know this creates dialogue and engagement, and ultimately trust.
- They create a digital library for their team members. Once they know what their team members want to learn or improve, they buy online courses and create a spreadsheet including all the courses according to the subject (e.g., Sales/HR/Leadership/IT) and then give access to every interested party.
- They help their team members build relationships with each other by giving them opportunities to work in pairs or small groups and providing them access to a “virtual kitchen.” In a traditional workplace, we go to the office kitchen to have our lunch or make some coffee and we get to talk to our colleagues about our weekend plans or a movie we watched and enjoyed. In a virtual workplace, team members meet in a virtual kitchen during their lunch break, and are able to create common ground, and thus trust, with their colleagues.
- They are a role model, they are consistent, they set clear goals, and they give details. They avoid emails, they prefer video calls, and they turn their web camera on and ask everyone to do the same so they can see each other’s body language.
- They know that agility and transparency are very important to the team.
- They trust their teams, refraining from micromanaging since they know that micromanagement hinders the team’s productivity. They even allow team members to make mistakes so they can learn from them.
- They know that a multicultural environment may cause misunderstandings and this is why they are always on top of things to make sure everything is under control and every team member feels well and safe to be their real self.
- They are servant leaders serving and protecting their teams. They keep their eyes and ears open, and they are able to recognize digital cues that signal dissatisfaction or conflict, which they address as soon as possible and always in an objective manner.
Ultimately, responsible leaders make sure there is a safe environment free of any form of bullying or discrimination. At the end of the day, responsible leaders create new leaders, ready to serve their own teams.
For more information about best practices in leading and managing virtual teams, as well as the results of an interesting survey regarding the challenges that virtual leaders face, visit http://skemaprojects.com/blog/Global-PMI-Congress_2016.pdf where you can find the white paper presented by Dr. Penny Pullan and I at the 2016 Global Project Management Institute Congress.