Many people assume the characteristics that make a good leader are the same no matter where that leader is located. However, managing virtual teams effectively requires a set of skills that is different from managing teams located under the same roof. In addition to excelling at the execution-oriented practices that define any good leader, virtual leaders must also juggle the interpersonal, communication and cultural factors that define virtual teams.
OnPoint’s own research on virtual teams has found nearly half are not meeting expectations, while one in four are failing altogether. As virtual teams are the building blocks for global organizations, it is imperative for organizations to select leaders carefully.
What characteristics are most important to consider when hiring, promoting and evaluating virtual leaders?
Our virtual team research consisted of interviews with leaders from 48 virtual teams and identified these top three characteristics.
Strong Interpersonal Skills
While one might assume introverted people would be more likely to thrive in a virtual setting, our research and research from others has found employees who are more extroverted tend to fare better. They are more adept at finding ways to stay connected to others regardless of their location. Maintaining frequent communication and communicating effectively is crucial to managing accountability in virtual teams.
What does effective communication look like? Within the context of a team, it means giving clear direction and being responsive when team members ask for assistance or clarification.
In the unstructured environment of a virtual team, both leaders and team members must find ways to independently structure their time effectively. They must be well organized and able to keep track of what needs to be done without a lot of supervision from others. They need to be proactive and balance important long-term goals with urgent priorities.
Finally, they need to implement technology and processes that allow them to effectively monitor the work of team members without micromanaging.
The best virtual leaders are able to juggle multiple responsibilities and priorities at the same time. They are able to pivot when priorities shift and swiftly steer their team in the right direction without taking them off course.
When it’s not clear what needs to be done next, virtual leaders must be comfortable consulting others, examining the facts and using critical thinking skills to determine the right course of action.
The most talented and hard-working employees don’t always make the best virtual leaders. Virtual leadership is a true balancing act. Leaders must be able to work in a self-directed manner while also communicating and collaborating well with others. They need to be highly organized, yet flexible enough to tolerate ambiguity.
Leaders should also ensure that their virtual team members have the skills necessary to effectively collaborate from a distance.
According to Google’s Laszlo Bock, that means composing the team differently based on the problem the team needs to solve or address.
For example, a team of people selected to solve a detailed financial problem wouldn’t likely be the same team chosen to tackle a customer satisfaction issue.
Source:: Business 2 Community