Impacting Leaders is a virtual organization, and this setup works well for us and our clients. The flexibility has allowed me to cherry-pick the people on my team because location is not an issue. Our clients are spread across several states, so there is no need for a brick-and-mortar headquarters.
However, as someone who has always worked “in” an office and thrived on face-to-face interaction (and still does), leading virtual employees is a learning experience. Here are five actions that I’ve learned are essential to leading a virtual team.
1. Build Trust
Trust is always essential, but it’s even more heightened in a virtual environment. I don’t have time to wonder whether my people are at their computers producing during the workday. I trust that they are, and what they deliver backs up that trust. Of course, the trust must run both ways. I need my teammates to trust that I am representing the best interests of Impacting Leaders and our team even when we’re not in constant contact.
2. Invest in the Relationship
You have got to show you care, not just about their production, but about the person! Ask how they’re doing. Ask about their family. Talk about their strengths and interests. Help them grow. Don’t pass up an opportunity to meet face to face when you can.
Make sure your people aren’t isolated. Be intentional in collaborating on projects. Solicit feedback. Have regular conference calls. Random calls are vital as well. Don’t just wait for scheduled meetings to tackle a subject. Some of the most productive meetings in an office happen in the hallways, so try to create a “virtual hallway” by picking up the phone and talking for three to five minutes instead of waiting for the set hourly meeting. Collaborating with virtual workers takes extra effort, but it’s worth it.
4. Focus on Results
The real make-or-break deal with virtual workers is whether or not they can produce the project, or product, or service that you need to deliver to your customers within the timeframe and at the level of excellence you expect. If they can, and if they work well within your team, how or when or where they do it matters a lot less.
5. Keep Communicating
With a virtual team you can’t rely on non-verbals like body language to tell you how a teammate is doing. The leader must stay in-tune with how their people are doing and what their challenges are, and the teammates must be willing to communicate transparently with their leader. Both sides need to be willing to talk and listen when difficulties arise.
Do you work virtually or lead a virtual team? What are any additional essential actions you would add to this list?