Virtual leaders are a new breed. If you are a leader who has just been thrust into a virtual world, you are probably in a situation you’ve never experienced. You may be wondering if your team is working hard since you can’t actually observe them as you did in the office. Additionally, you might also find it particularly challenging to keep your team engaged and motivated from afar. Here are some tips to keep your team as focused, engaged, and motivated as possible, even when you’re not physically at their side.
Ascertain what has changed for each team member, now that they are virtual.
During Covid-19 most everyone became a virtual worker who was forced to work at home for a period of time. Some may have done so permanently. In addition to the search for a home office, other demands arose. Some were navigating roommates and spousal work needs, children’s e-learning, or caring for vulnerable loved ones or front line responders.
It’s important to understand what the new work environment looks like for each team member. Some may need additional flexibility with their work schedule to allow for children’s learning schedules. You may find a team member who is caring for their octogenarian parent in their small 2 bedroom flat. And of course, we’ll have to allow for the occasional puppy or feline friend popping into Zoom meetings as well.
If you can understand what your team members are experiencing, you can help them by being flexible and understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to change any of the deliverables they are committed to delivering. But be more flexible on the ‘how’ they get things done, and focus on the results instead.
Focus on results instead of ‘amount of time working’.
When I asked leaders about their biggest challenges while working virtually, their top response related to being able to see their people working. This immediately made me think of trust, rather than productivity. When expectations are clear and there is an agreement between both parties as to the deliverables and timeline, then the amount of time spent, or the process used to complete the expectations should have little relevance.
For example, if the expectation is to make 15 sales calls a day, and it’s clear what constitutes a ‘call’, it shouldn’t matter if that took 6 hours or 8 hours as long as the calls are completed. In addition, your team member may make 20 calls a day Monday through Wednesday and need to take Thursday off. Should you care? Now you are always going to love that team member who makes 20 calls a day no matter what and overachieves. But everyone doesn’t rise to that level of performance and they still need to be supported. So make sure you are focusing on the results, in addition to showing support and patience especially during challenging times.
Ask them what they need. What are their expectations of you?
In addition to the many changes required for virtual workers, and ensuring that expectations are crystal clear for your team, spend some time exploring their expectations as well.
- What do they expect their workday to look like?
- How will they be operating differently?
- What support do they need from you?
- How much communication and support do they need from you?
- What should you start/stop doing?
- Is there anything you could do differently in order to ensure their success?
These types of questions not only build trust and connection, but they also open your eyes to another perspective that may have been a blind spot. Unless you ask, they probably don’t feel comfortable telling you anything mentioned above. You set the tone for communication and support. Ensure that you build a solid foundation to start within your virtual leadership.