Over-night you have become a leader of a virtual team! How do you do that? Well first of all;
• Don’t panic and admit to the team that you are all learning together – take the pressure off.
• Get your own home-working plan together (See my blog on working from home here).
• Learn from others who have done it before.
• Get support – set up a small group of colleagues on the same learning curve with a space to connect and share (social media or video conference).
Having had the experience of leading virtual global teams over the years, I have some ideas to share with you;
The Trust Issue
If you are harbouring a sense of distrust – deal with it! Get with your coach, boss, trusted colleague and talk it out. If you don’t, you will leak it to the team and undermine their motivation. Here is a simple way to get under the emotion of distrust to uncover something you can do about it;
Thinking about a specific person, ask yourself;
• Are they competent? – do they have the skills and resources to deliver? How can you be confident or ensure that they do?
• Are they consistent? – do their words and actions always match? If they say they will do something, do they do it? What feedback and coaching do you need to offer? What clear expectation will you set? What communication will you ask for to ensure they are consistent?
• Are they candid? – do they tell you the truth? What about your reaction to the truth may be inhibiting them? How do you need to change the dialogue to change the pattern?
• Are they committed? – do they share whole-heartedly the purpose of the team? Have you talked about team purpose (see here) and their contribution to it? Have you asked what’s important them?
Now consider what communication you need from each person to alleviate your own anxiety about delivery of results. Contract with them around a reasonable communication plan.
Increasing your level of trust of your team will mean less stress for you, reduced probability of over-managing and a better work environment for your people.
This is a new experience for all of us and we will all have our challenges. Be honest with the team about this and share your own struggles. Spend time talking about theirs. Do this at the start and regularly along the way. Get your people sharing ideas and solutions, rather than dwelling on the difficulties.
There may be policies that get in the way of practical stuff. For example, I heard from one person whose laptop does not have a camera because she is office-based and the policy is that she is expected to use the VC facilities. If I were her leader, I’d tell her to just buy one and expense it regardless of policy.
When people work remotely, it’s much easier for alignment to drift. Get the team together and re-new your understanding of your purpose, strategic outcomes, and individual contributions. (I have a useful template for this, contact me if you want it). Every week, set “If we do nothing else this week we must…….”. Review and tick them off every week.
When you are co-located with your team, they “read” you at a sub-conscious level. You mood and demeanour tell them a lot about how they are doing. When they don’t see you, their customers, their colleagues, how do they get a sense of how things are?
Think about how you can get feedback to them and set the standard to at least three achievements and successes to every one negative message. This supports their emotional equilibrium and therefore cognitive powers.
Video conferences are great for keeping meetings going as well as encouraging social interaction. How about having a VC lunch or coffee break once a week with no shop-talk. Or buddying people up to do this regularly.
One-to-one contact with your people and letting them know you care about them has never been so important. Make sure to talk about how they (and their families) are doing and not just about what they are doing.
One global team I led used to talk about Fi’s “water-cooler calls”; when I would just call them to check-in. For my people in Asia, I’d usually be in pyjamas!
Yes you can run workshops virtually. It takes more planning and structure and will never be as good as face-to-face, but I have had some very good results in the past. It’s a big topic, so I have prepared a separate blog here.
Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and ideas. Good luck and do get in touch if you need my help or just a listening ear.