Leading a team can be one of the most challenging parts of a managerial position. The current pandemic has added complexity and has thrust us into a virtual environment which is here to stay. While working from home has benefits and has helped to keep many people safe, it does challenge the team leader in new ways. Without the proper leadership approach, a team will struggle and performance and engagement will drop. Adaptive leaders will reflect upon their leadership and flex to these new conditions. This blog provides areas of focus to lead a team virtually with purpose and resilience.

Active Listening 

During times of great uncertainty, fearful reactions are widespread. Not only are people dealing with the fear of a pandemic, they are also worried about financial stress, job security and the unrest that is evident across our society. This fear paralyzes team members from taking action and taking on risk that they normally would take.  

As a leader, it is critical to first check-in with your teammates to see where they are, so you may lead them from that perspective forward. Start out conversations with “How are you?” and proceed by simply listening. By having an open dialog and actively listening to your team members, it makes it possible for you to uncover the individual’s current emotional mindset. Once you have mastered this, you will be able to address their fear and negative emotions and help them navigate to a more positive and productive place.

Build Trust

Trust is a critical foundational ingredient for anyone who is attempting to lead in any capacity and is especially important in virtual management. Trust can be formed more quickly when there are real threats and challenges, like we are experiencing today. Give your team the proper space and trust in your employees that they will complete their work, correctly and efficiently. Creating this environment will make it easier for your team to trust you as a leader, and to trust each other.

In our more traditional office environment, I referred to this as “What will people do when no one is watching?”, which is now the case for our current working conditions. In these new circumstances, there are questions that you’ll have to ask yourself as a leader. 

  • Do you have the trust in the team to give them full autonomy to do their job?  
  • Have you made yourself vulnerable so there is a safe environment to share challenges?  
  • Are you prepared for missteps and to convert them to quick learning experiences?  

A strong foundation of trust will be at the core of teams that are successful in this new environment.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to create that trust.

Create Meaningful Interactions

Since interactions usually happen organically in the office, it is much more difficult to have them virtually. Many virtual tools promote “one-way” communications, rather than more dynamic and interactive exchanges. To promote meaningful and engaging interactions in the virtual workplace, encourage 2-way activities, such as sharing, brainstorming, ideation and problem-solving. Not only are these ways to promote bonding and employee engagement, but they are central activities that will further your team’s core purpose. It is also important to ask for feedback on ideas with meaningful open-ended questions, to both the full team and in individual one-on-one conversations. Coaching and teaching sessions allow you to interact with your team members and create a personalized learning environment, which many are yearning for in this new world!

Create Clarity in Expectations

Another important area to create effective virtual team collaboration is being clear about your expectations. Being open and honest with your team about what you expect allows them to express any concerns they may have and it creates a clear path to hold everyone accountable in their roles on the team. In a virtual world, we need leaders who are very clear about the expectations and what is most important.

Celebrate Frequently

Lastly, you must celebrate accomplishments and reward the team as much as possible. Search for them doing good things and call attention to it! This may be hard given the suffering and conflict that we see in our surrounding world, but as strong leaders, we must be intentional about it. When people and teams feel appreciated, they will go above and beyond, giving discretionary effort to achieve great things.

Key Takeaways – For the Leader

  • Trust is essential to any thriving team
  • Open and honest communication builds deeper relationships
  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
  • Find out what motivates and energizes your teammates and play to those areas
  • Celebrate the wins

The key to team leadership is building trust and providing your team with hope.  Both are in high demand right now, as we face the current environment and embrace virtual leadership.  At The Leader’s Evolution, we assist our clients to propel leadership forward to meet these challenging times.  If you’d like to discuss leadership in your organization, please contact Ken Warman.