Time and space barriers have been eradicated as businesses were forced to shift into mandatory virtual teams due to the nature of business being in non-essential services. Virtual working has its issues and challenges that leaders need to overcome to enable team members.
The main challenge is neither the virtual technology nor the setup of the virtual working environment, it is how leaders need to navigate past the virtual environment to bridge and foster greater connection than ever before. According to Zigurs (2003), virtual teams are collection of individuals, dispersed from each other geographically or organizationally but connected by information technology to accomplish assigned goals.
The general perception of virtual/remote working has been frown upon decades ago, with the workforce being used to physical offices especially in Asia.
The biggest challenge for leaders is the difficulty to control directly every team members' activity due to geographical locations. The role of leader from the inception is to create coherence and integration among these individuals to achieve the targeted goals.
So what can leaders do to become better virtual leaders?
Provide virtual environment training for each member and encourage the voicing out challenges and difficulties in adapting (i.e. not having proper equipment, conducive environments, being on task etc)
Get up to scratch with cultural norms and languages especially when virtual teams span across the globe and different time zones. Facilitate communication and conversations through pointing out how all parties can coordinate with each other.
Establish communication standards such as protocols for updates, frequency of communication and role clarity so that projects can run smoothly.
Step in to mitigate any miscommunication or misunderstandings by checking in periodically on project progress with each team member.
Provide necessary tools for internal communications such as slack, microsoft teams etc to increase flexibility of communication and data management.
Recognize team members from time to time and organize get togethers virtually so that people can interact with one another and having a greater sense of belonging
Introduce short online courses or get internal HR to organize virtual training for your team to increase their abilities in their work
The competencies needed for a virtual leader is quite different from a physical leader as there is a lot of coordination, individual one-on-ones and checking in without being seen as micro-managing. The balancing act of all these competencies may cause virtual leaders to be lost and confused as it seems that no one has the answers. Virtual leaders need to adopt the growth mindset and face mistakes as part of the learning process. Subscribe to our blog for more articles like this.