If since applying for college your biggest dream and most ambitious career plan was to end up in a management position and become a strong leader, and, most importantly, if your dream came true, congratulations, you are now a leader in a world that took the concepts of working and “going to the office” to a whole new level. Long gone are the days when people were going to work from 9 to 5, get stuck together in the same office or building and say good bye to each other every evening, only to meet again the next morning. We are witnessing the rise of mobile working, where people can achieve their job tasks and complete their assignments from the comfort of their homes or the cool atmosphere of their favorite cafe, not having to see the boss or other co – workers, and we are not talking about freelancers or blogging mothers anymore. We are talking about a powerful workforce, employed, rewarded and managed from a distance. Starting with 2012, extensive research has been conducted in order to highlight the main features of remote teams and workers and the virtual leadership that seems more and more necessary and the results are quite surprising: more and more companies are using mobile workers and remote teams and many leaders have to resume everything they know about good leadership and adjust their skills to the new environment.
Going back to you as a leader, what do you do when you have to manage a remote team? What are the skills you need to enhance, the attitudes you need to promote and the key – points you have to stay focused on, in order to be successful together with your team?
Research, conducted interviews and extended papers on the matter all show that the basic leadership skills are also applicable to the virtual leadership, and, according to some authors,
the words that were used repeatedly when describing the differences between leading in a collocated environment and a dispersed environment were “planned,” “disciplined,” “deliberate,” and “intentional.”
Nothing new so far, as even in a virtual leadership position, you should always be concerned with being authentic, promoting trust, building interpersonal relationships, be focused on your team’s needs, aim for results and find ways to measure them. But virtual leadership also comes with a few drawbacks and if you’re the head of a remote team that has very spread – out members, from different cultures, time zones and working manners, the things tend to be a bit difficult.
In order to succeed, it takes more than setting the same clock to all workers and be able to distribute tasks evenly enough to make sure everybody delivers high quality results in the specified amount of time. According to Scott Edinger, virtual leadership and remote teams can be very happy and more engaged if the leader learns a few lessons. First and foremost, since you don’t have the opportunity to watch the team working, deliver them a motivational speech or train them on how to work better together, you should learn the specifics of your team as a whole and the specifics of each individual (what makes them tick, what makes them work better, what motivators have the best results, what their needs are and what issue you should expect from any of them). After you do your homework and understand that George works better in the evening, while Marc tends to deliver the results as soon as possible to enjoy a personal life after working hours, you should be able to adjust your leadership skills to the exact team necessities. Let’s see in short how you can achieve all these:
– instill and promote the feelings of mutual trust and respect in the team by being open, honest and authentic, so no matter the issues you encounter, all the remote team members will support each other and you, work together to solve the problem and be transparent in all their actions
– use technology at its maximum: from communication systems to apps that make you feel closer to each other, use everything you have so that the remote members don’t feel lost, alone, forgotten and worthless for spending days in a row in front of computer with nobody asking them if they’re alright
– communicate permanently, review objectives and results and give feedback: the most annoying thing of working in a remote team is to receive feedback only once in a while and usually when you’ve done something wrong. Good virtual leadership doesn’t mean only sending tasks via e-mail and gathering results, but keeping all communication lines open, have a chat with your people, have some laughs even, make them feel committed to the work and the goals. Check the objectives you all established together and see if they were reached, give people feedback, ask for their feedback and keep them close.
If you are in the position of virtual leadership, you will have to do some homework and read some papers, as it sounds easy at first, but you should remember that happy and engaged employees are the ones you need the most and keeping remote teams engaged and happy is no easy feat.