In recent years, many organizations have made the shift to a virtual workplace or a hybrid approach where employees work remotely at least part of the time.
However, few give much thought to the demands of a virtual workplace aside from ensuring they have the right technology. They fail to recognize the need to ensure their managers have proper skills to lead and collaborate from a distance.
While all strong leaders tend to share certain key characteristics, those who manage virtual teams must be particularly strong in a few key areas. We identified the most important of these competencies in a study of 427 members and leaders from 48 virtual teams. Here’s a look at what they are and how to ensure your team leaders have them.
1. Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Leaders who can communicate clearly and effectively will be better equipped to build strong relationships with virtual team members, which sets the foundation for almost everything else.
Strong communication skills are important in face-to-face relationships but they are essential in a virtual setting. These skills are the foundation for managing conflict, influencing others and coaching and motivating them. Unfortunately, this is the area where leaders appear to need the most work: 45 percent of virtual team members we surveyed said these were the skills their teams lacked the most. Within a virtual environment, strong communication skills means being able to:
- Use appropriate technology to stay connected with team members
- Conduct effective virtual meetings
- Use active listening to enhance understanding from a distance
- Connect and build relationships and trust
It can be difficult enough to work with others when you’re all under the same roof. Adding distance and different time zones to the equation can further complicate things. The best virtual leaders know how to overcome these challenges and foster strong collaboration within their teams. They must recognize barriers, such as differences among cultures and time zones, and work enthusiastically to overcome them.
3. Influencing Remotely
Virtual leaders have fewer opportunities to build the types of relationships that allow them to effectively influence others. To overcome this, they first must have a good understanding of the four most effective influencing styles and when and how to use them. Leaders also should know which style they use most often and how to adapt their approach depending on the situation.
4. Managing Conflict
Distance and a lack of visual cues creates a greater potential for misunderstanding among leaders and their virtual teams. It may be easier to ignore conflict when leaders can’t see it right in front of them, but unresolved issues hinder the team’s productivity and damage morale. Over time, ongoing conflict can cause the team to disintegrate. Effective leaders understand why conflict occurs and tackle it head-on using an approach that is most appropriate for a given situation. They need to be aware of the most common conflict resolution styles and adjust their approach accordingly.
5. Managing Accountability Remotely
Virtual leaders must hold employees accountable and keep projects moving forward even when they do not see their teams every day. In Go to the full article.