How to Lead Effective Virtual Teams

7 Elements


1.   PURPOSE:  

What to do 

  • Organisational Values. More relevant than ever before is that companies use, utilise and live by your Organisational Values.  These will prove to either be a beacon that provides confidence, or a blackened cloud that long lingers over your business potentially crippling productivity. Check in and test yourself on this weekly, it will pay you back dividends!
  • Prioritise. What are the essential tasks and what are the nice to haves? It is time to sharpen your focus, remove distractions and ensure any and all essential tasks are given due merit. What tasks can you cull or delay? It will be internally motivating for staff to ‘log in’ and contribute to value adding tasks. It will be de-motivating to do so for anything else. Give your staff purpose.

  • Monitoring progress. We recommend that you consider how you now communicate the progress of performance. Staff will respond well to identifying how ‘their piece’ is adding value. Staff will be looking to the ‘scoreboard‘ to gauge their sense of security. Our tip, make this a priority and heighten the frequency.


What to do 

  • Clarity of Expectations. When your staff are lacking clarity of expectation and/or direction, they will do what they believe is right. With many of you implementing ‘work from home’ plans, we recommend that you pay attention to ensure staff are aware and support what it is they are being asked to do.  It is not micro-managing to reach this clarity up front, it could save your business significant waste and provide great purpose to your staff.

  • Stay within your pay grade. You may find that the ‘process of decision making’ has suddenly become very slow. The reality is that it would be good news (to an extent) that the decision making process has slowed. If you don’t notice this, pay attention. Some people may be making decisions outside their pay grade (with good intent) because they have not got access to the collaboration network. Set some boundaries!

  • Communication. Identify and explain what you need communicated, what you want communicated and the method for the communication to occur. We also recommend that you be open to what others also may feel as though they need/want. Confirm up front.

What to do 

  • Managing the ‘freedom’. Working from home is a challenge for many. There is not as strongly defined set times, you are not in ‘uniform’, you may also have kids home from school who require entertaining. How will you empathetically manage this ‘freedom’ staff will experience? Our suggestion is perhaps you should expect less from staff, but also be clear on what your non-negotiable behavioural requirements are. Be clear.

  • Provide Conviction. Show you care and show that you and your business is the place of employment for your staff in the short, medium and longer term. There is significant Intellectual Property (IP) among your staff, ensure it stays with you. Maintain your IP.

  • Reward. Look for, encourage & reward those who seek out accountability. As detailed previously, your business may ‘slow down’. Those who seek out opportunities to be involved will be pivotal to the ongoing success of your organisation. Treat them well.


What to do

  • Connection is vital. Humans have a strong need to connect with others. Maslow identifies it in his Hierarchy of Needs. Vaillants study highlights the importance of staying connected or adversely the negative impact social isolation has on ageing. Make connecting with your staff a very high priority, if it is not your #1, what is? How can you foster a culture where your staff are connecting with their peers? For some work plays the dual role of also being the majority source of peoples social connectivity. Find a reason to connect.
  • Add to and gain from. Typically we find that people feel very connected when they experience a balance of adding value to others as well as receiving value from others. If this balance is out of kilter or non existent, isolation can be experienced. Isolated staff are non productive staff in more areas than just their work! Care more.

  • Social skill. As the start of the football season would normally be upon us, it would also signify the commencement of those water cooler banter discussions about who’s team beat who, the footy tips, the sense of ‘belonging’ to your club. These discussions provide some with significant pride, purpose and stress relief (yes, that’s right) among others. Look for ways to encourage staff to communicate freely, even if it nothing to do with work. Fill the void.

What to do

  • Baseline. Identify what your ‘baseline’ is during these unprecedented times. Budgets should be reviewed, forecasts challenged, goals rewritten, don’t be ‘surprised by the impact’. No surprises.

  • Recognise, Acknowledge, Appreciate. Assuming you read element 1 – Purpose? Follow through to recognise, acknowledge and appreciate the efforts that your staff are making. It will be easy for them to drop concentration, focus, motivation, etc… Recognising, Acknowledging, Appreciating them will assist them to enjoy their work and new work surrounds. Happy people are happy performers right? Maybe 3 parts these to 1 part challenge – it’s a good rule of thumb anyway, even more so now. Happy performers.

  • The bigger picture. You will often hear us talk about the benefits of explaining ‘the bigger picture’. The bigger picture here is to ensure that there will be a bigger picture. Feedback rather than performance reviews should be considered. Value added rather than KPI attained (while still relevant) may be a worthwhile adjustment. Provide confidence.

6.   WELFARE:  

What to do

  • Be interested. Pause from your busy day to pay attention to any change in personal projection, performance, energy levels etc; it could be an indicator of something bigger.  Ask if they are ok. If we look at the experiences in China, reports revealed that incidents of domestic abuse increased following the outbreak of the virus. A combination of economic uncertainty, anxiety caused by quarantine, the lack of escape routes for women (domestic abuse cases were mostly against women) and a weakening of support services created a perfect storm. Divorce rates also spiked in China post the outbreak of the virus. Ask if they are ok – it is not ok to wish you had have asked!

  • Listen to understand. Your time is precious. The time you have to connect with staff is limited. When you do connect, make sure you connect. A great tip is to listen to understand, hold off on your response. Give the conversation time to flow, not rush it along. Planning is key here. If you feel a phone/video conversation will last 10 minutes, allow 15. Provide the time.

  • Resources. People do not know what they do not know. How can you connect people living in isolation to information or resources which provides education on how to live as normal a life as possible, during a very abnormal time. Is it personalised coaching, access to self care tips like mediation/yoga etc…, programs for fitness sessions that you can do at home, recipes for tinned food, recommendations or guidelines for working from home (making your bed after rising at a predetermined time can be a confidence boost for some). What can and what will you do? Isolation not isolated.


What to do

  • Pause, Reflect, Realign. Check in with the key indicators of your business weekly. If you think this is too often, think how different our world was this time last week. Be ahead of the curve as much as you can. With sound planning and monitoring systems, you will make better decisions. Plan.

  • The what if. Be curious and open to alternative possibilities, not restricted by your conditioned needs or personal purpose. Throw it open to your staff for ideas, they may have some that will evolve your business considerably. Geoff Harris (co-founder of Flight Centre) recalls how insightful & rewarding it was for his then business to open itself to the ideas of its staff during the impact of the gulf war. “it saved the business”. This is a time to ideate.

  • Decision Making Strategy. 

    a) When new opportunities present (which they will), have a sound decision making strategy of what you will say ‘no’ to. Otherwise you may evolve in ways that you cannot recognise or reconcile. Know your no.

    b) Address any ‘key person’ impact of your business. (see enclosed example) Can you take any ‘player’ out without negatively impacting the performance of the business. Are you too reliant on an individual, is that individual you? Conduct an impact assessment and work out how you cover for key positions within the organisation. Prepare now

    Below is a downloadable PDF version. 
Effective Virtual Teams


If you need assistance in building your virtual teams or providing immediate coaching to individuals or the leaders, let us know.