How to be an Effective Virtual Team Manager

Leading a virtual team has many challenges including lack of emotional awareness, harder to resolve conflicts, and trust issues. Many corporations have asked their employees to work remotely due to the uncertainties of Coronavirus. According to Gallup, 33% of the American labor force is currently working from home full-time.

“work from home” now became the new norm for an unforeseeable future. This introduced many challenges for the management of all corporates. Below are some tips for you to become better at managing your team remotely (virtually).

1. Make Sure to Connect Frequently

Social isolation is one of the most common complaints of virtual team members. Every employee misses the informal social interaction of an office setting. Isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization in a long team. It could even result in resignations.

It is advisable to take some time each day to just reach out and connect. Take time just to say “hello” to your team to maintain the connection. If your team works more independently, this could be a series of one-on-one calls with individual members. It is better to have a team call if their work is highly collaborative and dependent on each other.

Video or audio calls are a better way than chat services to avoid misunderstandings. They connect the team members on a more personal level. Chat services are a good way to ask for quick responses to maintain communication in a more natural setting.

2. Establish Rituals of Engagement

There are different tools and methods of communication for virtual teams. Those are mainly email communication, chat service communication, video conferencing, and telephone conferencing. The correct method should be used at the correct time to maintain the proper flow of communication.

Virtual management becomes more efficient when managers set expectations for the ideal way of communication. The team could use video conferencing or teleconferencing for daily meetings and urgent communications. Chat services are better for communications that do not require immediate attention. The email is formal way of communication. Also, your team may use different applications such as Trello and slack used to track the task progress.

Make sure to establish a ritual for your team to update these platforms daily. As the manager, you can let your team members know the best way and time to reach you during the workday. Establish a structured daily or weekly team calls as a ritual: many successful virtual teams have daily calls with the entire team.

3. Lead by Feel

Your team needs more emotional support during remote work. It is a must to listen to employees’ concerns, empathize with their struggles, and acknowledge stress. It is challenging to identify the real emotional situation of your team during remote work. Asking some general questions such as “How does this remote work going on?” could help your team to express their real concerns. Make sure to listen carefully to the response, focus on the emotional side of it, and better to restate it back to ensure understanding.

You don’t need an extra effort to show your remote team that you value them. If it is possible, something like sending a birthday card or a cake can let them know that the team cares about them. Virtual teams will put in more effort into their work as you establish an even stronger relationship of trust and understanding. Make sure to take the extra step to show your appreciation.

Team members should feel that they can consult with you, and they should emotionally feel that their concerns and questions are heard clearly.

4. Have some Common Work Hours of your Team

It is recommended that most of the team should be online for at least four hours a day. Having common hours will help you to manage the communication of your team to reduce the dependencies of each other. It will also bring your team closer together without feeling isolated throughout the working hours.

70% of the virtual teams have succeeded if team members have at least four hours of overlap time per working day.

5. Be Organized and Flexible

The key to the success of the virtual team is to allow flexible hours of work to maintain consistency. Virtual team managers need to adopt agility and have the skill to rearrange the strategies as needed. Working hours shouldn’t be a problem as long as the virtual team gets the committed work done within the required quality standards.

When you are working with your team at the office, you should not look over your team’s shoulders. The same applies to remote working. Regular one-on-one discussions will help you to avoid micromanaging. Provide your team the opportunity to provide their feedback as well.

Ensure you’re communicating clearly regarding the meeting goals and deadlines during the team meetings or one-on-one sessions.

6. Make Sure to Have Frequent Small Talks

The ability to engage in small talk with your team members is a key business skill. This allows us to communicate in a friendly way without going too personal. Talk with your team members pretending that you are talking to an old friend.

When you have the opportunity for a small talk, you can give compliments to the team members, discuss current events with them, and make sure to be interested in what they say. There’s nothing that makes a person more interesting than being interested.

7. Celebrate Success

Don’t be hesitate to celebrate the work milestones that would be celebrated in the office. Employees just might have to show their thumbs up during the video conferencing. This would feel by the team a lot more personal than an e-mail. Team connection will not lose due to the virtual working conditions.

8. Facilitate a Team Meetup Physically Early-On

Face-to-face communication is better than virtual when it comes to relationships and trust-building. This is an essential foundation for effective teamwork. It is better if you could facilitate the team together, have some time to help team members get to know each other better.

Psychical team discussion will help to create a common vision among the team. Don’t forget to facilitate the reconnection semi-annually or annually if possible.

9. Get the Maximum Use of Cloud Software Applications

There are many free and paid software tools that you can use to manage the virtual team performance. There are plenty of tools to handle video conferencing, chat services, meeting planning, task management document sharing, and project management.

Final Notes

Managing a virtual or remote team is different from managing a team in a physical environment. Despite this, the employees’ needs are the same. As a leader of the virtual team, what you can do is to build a strong relationship among your team members. Show that you care about the hard work they do. Lead the team but the emotion and encourage trust among the team members.

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