“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton
In times of the coronavirus pandemic, working virtually is the new usual trend. In the corporates’ functioning, working virtually is something that people in all ranks have to learn to operate more smoothly. It is not that a virtual team is functioning for the first time in this time of the pandemic. With the advent of a globalized economy, people have gathered the experience of working together separately from various corners of the world. And leaders of such teams could only run them virtually and have done it well, with the help of brain and technology application.
Virtual teams have become a reality of business life, more so in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic. By virtual teams, one means workgroups, which interact not personally but through electronic means. Such units also work interdependently. Leaders of such groups have a prime responsibility of ensuring coordination between such teams. Aligning such a team to work is also another critical task the leader has. But this is not all about effective leadership in running a virtual team.
Here are seven mechanisms through which a leader can effectively handle a virtual team:
Achieve a physical bonding: Marianne was fortunate to find a job during the coronavirus lockdown, and she was asked to join a virtual team since the office remained locked. Though it was a unique experience for her, she started growing a sense of seclusion because she never saw her team members. She then started to feel depressed, and then her boss Immanuel counseled her, and one day, the entire team had a video call together to cheer Marianne up. The credit went to Immanuel, who understood that no matter how much we work virtually, the human connection at work is still an important thing. Having a close bonding at work is key, and hence, whenever there is an opportunity for the team members to meet each other and spend time together, a leader should always encourage that. The regular connection helps a team function well virtually.
Virtual teams means are as necessary as ends: Generally, leaders ask their teams to get results in any endeavor. But when it comes to virtual work, the standards become as big. Having clear-cut roles for workers and the processes they need to follow to achieve the goals is an important thing for a virtual team to accomplish. Simplifying workers’ roles and decentralizing them to sub-groups and individuals is vital to making if a leader aspires to succeed while handling virtual teams. Small details about who does what and the deadline to accomplish the work and reviews to assess the progress are also things that need to be looked into.
Communication is key: When it comes to virtual teams, communication becomes the most important part of the game. Since the members are not present physically in front of each other, they have to bank heavily on the communication techniques and technology they have to bank. A leader has to ensure that the communication takes place as perfectly as possible. The team members need to be thoroughly sincere when communicating with each other by reducing the minimum disturbance factor. A virtual team leader also has to rank ways of communication — whether through the mail, telephone call, or replying to messengers — and set up guidelines on which mode to use as per the situation’s need.
Making communication modes easier: A leader handling virtual teams must understand that not every member of such teams is equally adept in handling technology. So, to ensure that such members do not feel left out amid the ‘experts’, the leader has to make the technological part in communication more manageable for them to digest. Collaborative technologies like sharing of workspace to holding multipoint video conferencing can be a good option. To be honest, virtual teams’ leaders need to be careful that hiring the best and smartest of technologies doesn’t always suit people. If the human element cannot manage the technology in the final count, the entire purpose of getting the actual work done virtually gets defeated.
Having fun time: Alisha loves connecting from home every morning while many of her friends find the lockdown work-from-home more and more draining. One reason for that is her boss Samantha has made it a point that all members will greet the others with a brief singing every morning. They have a small team, and each member gets to sing two lines before they kick off a laborious day’s work. This pre-work singing creates a positive vibe at the virtual workspace, and Samantha’s team thanks to her for giving it breathing space in an otherwise challenging situation. On every Friday afternoon, the team plays some games before wrapping up the week’s work. This also helps the team-building procedure while working remotely.
Breaking cultural barriers: While working from remote places, the workers cannot see each other but only bank on their communication methods to understand each other. This could be potentially dangerous when people from diverse cultural backgrounds are working. There might be issues with the voice tone during a telephone call or the language in a message or mail, or even understanding a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A leader has a role to play here. An agreement can be worked out on how people communicate with words so that there is no scope of misunderstanding or miscommunication. This is easier said than done because it is not easy to change cultural mindsets. Experts in culture and communication can be roped in to train people in teams to be better equipped when working remotely or in virtual teams.
Taking a cue from the leader who did it before you: As a virtual team leader, you must have replaced another person. If that person did the job well over the years, then you have a real example to learn the business from. Studying the past gives us insights into how to do it in the future. Especially when taking over a virtual team with not much prior experience, taking a leaf out of the predecessor’s book gives an excellent way to look at it. You get a foundation to build on and eventually help the team to do better.
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