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There are special challenges to leading a virtual team and ways that you, as a leader can be more effective with these challenges.
The first thing to realize is that trust often erodes with distance, so the fact you’re not around those people and talking to them as often can sometimes make them distrust one another on the team or even for you as the leader. Recognize that when the team isn’t together all the time, they’re going to be missing context and understanding of what each team member is doing and the contributions they’re making.
You’ll also notice your distant teams may drift into an us versus them mindset. They will often start to build silos that are even larger than normal since they can’t see other members of the team or other departments they might normally interact with. You’ll have to do some extra work to manage the priorities and communication on your team so the team members understand what each other is doing and what other departments might be doing. That will help lower the silo walls and diminish that us versus them mentality.
You’re going to need to go out of your way to have check-ins with them because you won’t see your team members on a regular basis. That might include a briefing you send first thing in the morning by email and then touching base with them during a check-in conversation that you can do either by video conference or by telephone.
Keeping your team intact, understanding what’s going on, and having a good relationship with them as the leader can help them navigate the challenges of being a virtual team member.
Teams thrive on having a clear common goal and when you’re together, that’s easy to communicate, but when everyone is spread out, you’re going to have to go above and beyond the call to clarify what the team’s common goal is, what the challenges might be, and what needs to get done to improve performance.
When the team does perform, you need to highlight that they are achieving the team’s goal. By keeping everyone on the same page and understanding the importance of what they’re doing and how that collaboration adds value, you will keep them on the same page as a team.
With regular check-ins, clarifying goals, and making sure you keep people informed so they don’t slip into an us versus them mindset, can help you really manage those virtual teams more effectively.
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