12 Tips to Better Manage Virtually

12 Tips to Better Manage Virtually
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Virtual Teams – Need Tips to Better Manage Virtually
In concept, working remotely offers more freedom and flexibility to employees and a chance to think about teams and work differently for employers.  In reality, virtual teams are a huge challenge for managers and direct reports.   Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that remote employees are more likely to feel alienated or disconnected.

Too many leaders treat their virtual teams the same way they treat teams that share the same physical locations. But, when teams are virtual, you need to double down on the fundamental management and team skills that you learned in new supervisor training. You are operating in a different medium and do not have the safety net that more personal and more informal opportunities for connecting can provide. Learn the tips to better manage virtually.

Twelve Tips on How to Better Manage Virtually
Follow the suggestions below on how to foster trust, get results, and maintain connections with your virtual team:

  1. Set Virtual Team Expectations
    Virtual environments increase the chances for team misunderstandings and inappropriate attributions for behaviors. Let your team know what you expect. Clear expectations, especially for virtual teams, reduce uncertainty and enhance trust and productivity.

    Establish virtual team norms with your team for goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships – especially communicating and sharing information.  Be clear about how success will be measured, celebrated, and who is responsible for what.

    The better you define expectations and align work with team members’ strengths and ambitions, the more you engender trust as a reliable and responsive leader.

    Are virtual team expectations clear enough?

  2. Reevaluate Your Virtual Team Composition
    Your team will struggle if the people are not well-suited to working and teaming virtually. In general, high performing virtual teammates are more proficient at communication, have higher levels of emotional intelligence, can work well independently, and are adept at overcoming challenges.  If you have any stragglers in these areas, invest the time in virtual team training and coaching to set them up for success.

    Does your team have the skills to thrive virtually?

  3. Recalibrate Virtual Team Size
    Bigger teams, whether virtual or live, cause problems. In terms of performance and connection, the most effective virtual teams typically have 10 people or less.  Smaller virtual teams make it easier to communicate, build collaborative relationships, make personal connections, track progress, hold people accountable, gain agreement, and get commitment.

    Is your virtual team too big?

  4. Provide Virtual Team Tools and Training
    Even high performing teams can be derailed by inadequate or overly complex technology when working virtually.  Make sure everyone on your team has the means to stay fully connected, contribute, and participate. Do they have all the technology they need to access and share information?  Join and lead virtual meetings?  Update and monitor progress?  Celebrate important milestones?

    Are your virtual technologies, skills, and practices where they need to be?

  5. Do not Neglect Interpersonal Dynamics
    Leaders need to overcompensate for the inherent lack of human contact by supporting virtual teams’ ability to develop, build, and maintain trust and connectedness. While it is easier for teams that have already worked together in the same location, virtual teams frequently struggle with communication and trust due to the absence of common non-verbal cues.

    Trust does not come easily when face-to-face interaction is a rarity.  Make sure you take the time to catch up and really connect. For example, simply spending the first 10 minutes in a round robin to check in on how everyone is doing and what’s new in their life can go a long way.

    Whenever it makes sense, help your team members create relationships with each other so they have a source of support, expertise, and advice other than you.

    Are you fostering a culture of connection and a good team rhythm?

  6. Share Good News and Some Fun
    Remote team members report feeling more lonely, isolated, and unsupported than co-located workers. According to Psychology Today, the sharing and collective acknowledgment of good news creates bonds of intimacy that deepen relationships and remind people that they are surrounded by those willing and able to achieve a common purpose.  The most cohesive virtual teams are those that know how to celebrate success and appreciate one another.

    Are you investing the time to share good news, have fun, and remind people how important their contribution is to you, the team, and the company as a whole?

  7. Practice, Model, and Enforce Being Present Virtually
    Even though multitasking has been shown to increase stress levels and decrease productivity and creativity, up to 82% of people admit to multitasking during virtual meetings. Effective collaboration – especially when the team is virtual – requires that everyone be present and engaged. Explain your expectations, model being present, use video, and regularly call on people to share their thoughts – especially at the beginning of meetings.

    Are you behaving as you want your team to behave?

  8. Have Clear and Meaningful Objectives for Each Virtual Meeting
    We have all been in meetings where people were unprepared, conversations went off-track, and the topics were a waste of people’s time. These problems — whether from live or virtual meetings — typically stem from poor meeting design.

    To combat people’s desire to multitask, keep meetings short and to the point, have and stick to your agenda, establish clear roles, and only invite people that make sense. Be clear about what you want to accomplish in each meeting and how you want your team to act and feel when it is over. Then think about how you need to interact with the team to achieve your objectives.

    Are you setting clear expectations for what needs to occur before, during, and after each meeting?

  9. Acknowledge Individual and Cultural Differences
    Recognize that each team member has their own beliefs, values, and communication preferences. You may need to coax some of your more reserved members to share their thoughts and you may need to decrease the time of the more expressive members. If you have a global team, consider cultural differences and be thoughtful of when you schedule meetings across different time zones.

    Are you acknowledging and learning about differences to get the most out of the members on your team?

  10. Solicit Feedback
    Be sure to ask for feedback not just about the meeting but how things are going in general. If trust is high among members, they will feel comfortable offering their concerns. If you hear nothing about ways to improve, you will need to be more intentional and direct about soliciting their candid thoughts.

    Do you have an effective and consistent way to know how your team is doing?

  11. Focus on Results Whenever Possible
    According to Gartner research in 2018, about half of large companies use some type of monitoring techniques to keep tabs on their employees by analyzing texts, emails, social media messages, and biometric data. As COVID-19 has forced many workers to work from home, the desire to monitor employee productivity has only grown.

    Advocates say that monitoring systems are built to boost productivity and make the quiet isolation of remote work better. But many workers report heightened stress and exhaustion as the lines between their work and personal lives become increasingly blurred.   This is not surprising to us – micromanagement is not a sustainable path to higher performance.

    While leaders may not be able to monitor team activities as closely as if they were co-located, we believe that the focus should be on results (the doing) and behaviors (the being), not effort or attendance.  If goals are met, it should not matter to you how and when people do their work.

    Are desired results clear, agreed upon, and aligned with your cultural norms?

  12. Keep Up the One-on-One Meetings
    86% of highly engaged organizations conduct regular manager-employee one-on-one meetings, and highly engaged employees rate one-on-one meetings as their preferred communication method. Make sure you conduct consistent (weekly or bi-weekly) virtual one-on-one meetings with your team members. These are times when you can check in on personal and professional goals, problems, and needs.

    Do you consistently hold one-on-one meetings with your team members?

The Bottom Line
Virtual teams have become a fact of life at work.  Virtual teams can work well. They just require a strong leader who understands that working remotely has special challenges and has applied tips to better manage virtually.

To learn more tips to better manage virtually about download 10 Tips to Overcome the Top Virtual Team Challenges

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