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30 Leadership Tips for Virtual Work

Applying deliberate subtle considerations to the way in which you bring equality to the team and magnify the team’s collaborative success makes all the difference to virtual working team performance. 

The lack of non-verbal cues, distinct imbalances in working environments and external noise team members experience can vary enormously. To create consistent virtual working days, determined efforts by leaders to build a cohesive, collaborative and connected team do make a huge difference. 

Over the years I have accumulated a lot of learnings by failing in my virtual working journey. Below is a summary of my top 30 tips to help you make virtual work, work:

  1. Establish clear communication channels and guidelines, be open and transparent in your communication.  Avoid having single side discussions which can lead to imbalanced team knowledge and power struggles.
  2. Use video conferencing for team meetings and discussions as visual connection gets and keeps people engaged. 
  3. Agree on and set clear goals and expectations for each team member and communicate them in the team to avoid duplication of efforts and team frustration or challenges.
  4. Provide regular updates on project progress as part of scheduled expected online team event.
  5. Encourage team behaviours that build connectivity, for example, transparency, collaboration and teamwork through virtual platforms.
  6. Foster a positive and inclusive virtual work culture by bringing everyone into the discussions.  Introverts will need to be coached to contribute, extroverts will need to be coached to give time to everyone, setting clear agendas helps with this. Consider developing together a team code of conduct for values, behaviours, expectations. 
  7. Schedule regular virtual team-building activities to build personal connections, make some calls purely social for example a “Friday wind-down” end of the week, ‘what have you planned for the weekend’ chats.  
  8. Use project management tools to track tasks and deadlines which everyone has access to contribute to and see.
  9. Provide adequate training and support for virtual tools and software, allocate team members responsible as a specific tool ‘guru‘ status for cross-skilling
  10. Maintain a regular work schedule and avoid excessive overtime, consider offering flexible work hours to accommodate personal needs and/or project deliveries.
  11. Foster trust and autonomy among team members by giving people ownership.
  12. Celebrate achievements and milestones virtually. Make a point of calling out delivery success and also people for the way they have worked.
  13. Create virtual water cooler moments for informal conversations.
  14. Encourage knowledge sharing and cross-training and live your expectations of others.
  15. Establish guidelines for handling virtual conflicts and disagreements. Recognise that virtual work can seemingly have more conflicts when you start owing to silence and lack of clarity.  Clear, open concise communication and information will alleviate it.  Establish in all virtual conflicts first, if it is a case of lack of clear information and knowledge about roles and responsibilities.  
  16. Implement a system for documenting and sharing important information, ensure people use it. Reject other ways of sharing (e.g. email) to ensure it is used. 
  17. Provide clear instructions and expectations for virtual meetings, for example, on-time, focused and video on.
  18. Use virtual whiteboards for brainstorming and collaboration and screen-sharing for presentations and demonstrations.
  19. Promote work-life balance and encourage employees to disconnect after their agreed working day. Not necessarily 9-5, sometimes projects require intensive work, but then balance that with lighter days and expectations. 
  20. Embrace different time zones and accommodate scheduling challenges by distributing the inconvenience across the team. 
  21. Encourage regular feedback and performance evaluations.
  22. Foster a sense of purpose and mission within the virtual team.
  23. Be aware of individual team challenges and ensure equality with working tools and access (e.g. internet, mobile devices) for all team members.
  24. Establish clear guidelines for data privacy and security, for example not using personal email accounts or tools that are not encrypted. 
  25. Encourage regular breaks, exercise and physical activity, sitting all day is not good for anyone. 
  26. Establish regular check-ins and one-on-one meetings with team members.  Use these check-ins for specific focus, bring overall project discussions instead into team discussions for transparency. 
  27. Set realistic and achievable goals for virtual projects. Recognise that until you have a fully connected and collaborative virtual team, people may default to side calls, working only with people they know well – partner new people on projects to get them connected. 
  28. Encourage active participation and engagement during virtual meetings by asking for each person in turn to comment or call out for contribution by name. 
  29. Continuously evaluate and adapt virtual work processes based on feedback and outcomes.
  30. Remember – everyone is learning to optimise virtual situations from their own experience and environment. Never assume bad intent in virtual situations, enquire, learn, fix and move on.

Being aware of what you do not know enables you to start making small changes that have a big impact.

If you are already doing some of these, then great, if not then try to take on just 5 and start, alternatively just share this article with your team and let them make the changes for you.

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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July 8, 2023

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