Here's how you can lead virtual teams effectively
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Remote working has risen over the past few years, and now stands at unprecedented levels, with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Most of the leaders were caught off guard and were suddenly required to lead teams and manage work remotely. As leaders juggle many things from house chores to business outcomes to employees' productivity and health, leading remote teams gets more challenging than ever.
Leading through sudden change is one of the most difficult things you can do as a leader, especially when you’re as blindsided by the change as your team. By following some of the suggested steps by experts from Insights, you can tailor your approach to leading through these challenging times and become a more effective remote leader.
Understand yourself as a person, then as a leader
The journey of becoming an effective leader begins by enhancing your self-awareness. If you’ve taken the time to truly understand what you like, and what you are like, your resilience will kick in when things start to feel difficult or chaotic.
Sit back for a minute and consider – what happens internally when you hear of a sudden change? Maybe your heart rate increases, perhaps you’re excited, or fearful, or your cynical side begins to question why yet another change is necessary. Once you identify your response you can consider strategies to deal with it.
The self-aware leader is adept at processing new situations, finding ways to feel a sense of ownership over it, and making themselves available to their team as they begin to grapple with it, too.
With more self-awareness, you will be able to better manage your emotions and respond in a much more strategic way. Instead of getting carried away by emotions and hampering your relationship with the employees, you will be able to have a better hold on yourself and the situation.
Don't just wear the leadership mask: Authenticity is key
Be true. Be you. Be honest with yourself and your team. The truth is you can only maintain the trust others have in you if you lead with humanity and authenticity.
No one should ever wear a leadership mask anyway, and in times of ongoing uncertainty, a facade becomes almost impossible to maintain.
As a leader, sometimes the very best answer you can give is, “I don’t know” followed by, “But when I do know, you will too.”
The simple truth is that nobody wants to feel that they’re at the end of a spin campaign. Being open and honest with your employees, as much as you are able to, says that you trust them, you recognize them as humans with fears and questions, and that they can rely on you to share the information that you have, instead of withholding it from a misguided sense of leader-as-protector.
Know your team: Each one of them
The trick when faced with communicating change to a team is to stay focused on the fact that you’re not dealing with one homogenous group; you’re speaking to people who will each have their own way of engaging with the change, as well as their own questions, fears, and working-from-home situations to deal with.
Your team will inevitably be a mixed bag of ages, experiences, motivations, ambitions, and – critically – workplace preferences. Which is just as it should be!
So be aware of their needs, their own unique situations, and we are not saying you can remember everything about all of them. But you can definitely be open and empathetic to the diverse needs they may have. If one of your team has, say, small children at home, they may need time and support to create a home-working space that gives them the seclusion they need. The most extroverted member of your team might need you to check in with them regularly, so they don’t get too lonely. Someone with a passion for details will have a lot of questions, so make sure you have all the answers available to share with them.
Trust, trust, trust
Creating a climate of micromanagement and fear won’t serve you well though. The need to trust your team can never be stressed enough.
If you’ve hired the right people, then you’ll know that they can be trusted to look after their own workload. The person who thrives on exercise to feel healthy might enjoy a long lunchtime run, working later into the evening to make up for it. The parents in your team might mix up their hours to fit around the school run. The night-owl may prefer to start late to finish late. You should be able to implicitly trust the right people to do what they need to do, wherever and whenever best suits them and the team.
Of course, verify, have regular check-ins, let them know you are there if they need any support. But never rush to take away the control. Honor them with not only responsibilities but also the authority and accountability.
With better awareness of self and others, authenticity, and the power of trust, you can become a better remote leader.
As Daniel Goleman, Author and Science Journalist says, "If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
An evolving world of work requires leaders whose self-awareness allows them to be agile, responding quickly to what customers and employees need even in an atmosphere of profound uncertainty. If you want to learn more about how Insights helps people excel in a rapidly-changing workplace, click here to know more.