Leadership has its challenges. Whether you’re facilitating collaboration or delegating tasks, it takes a lot of skill and patience to organize an efficient team. And adding a virtual aspect to your team doesn’t make leadership any easier. As we continue to adapt to working from home, our approaches to leadership need to adapt as well. Many managers don’t have the experience to lead online teams or could use upskilling and reskilling training to develop those leadership skills.
Here are five things to keep in mind to help lead a productive remote team. Use these tips as part of your official upskilling and reskilling training, or just provide them informally to provide support to your management team.
Upskilling and Reskilling Management for Online Leadership
- Communication is key
Technology keeps us connected but communicating online isn’t the same as having a face-to-face conversation. Without the inflections and facial expressions that come with in-person communication, wires can get crossed. When leading an online team, you can avoid misunderstandings by setting clear expectations and rules for communication methods. There are many different virtual communication methods available — and it could be beneficial for a team to establish what channels work best for various topics or priorities. For example, you could designate email for low-priority messages and texting or a messaging platform for quick replies and informal conversation. Keeping everyone in the loop allows for a better virtual work environment.
- Provide structure for productivity.
Working from home has benefits, such as allowing for flexible schedules and eliminating commute times, but it also has its challenges. Working from home often lacks the structure that working in an office provides, resulting in team members blurring work and home life and even experiencing burnout. Offering structure for your team can help alleviate these challenges. Scheduling regular individual and team check-ins could help keep motivation consistent. It could also be beneficial to be specific about expectations for assignments and setting clear priorities for projects.
- Create a collaborative environment.
A great team must be able to collaborate seamlessly with each other. Establishing clear communication lines is the first crucial element for collaboration. But when working remotely, it’s also important to have the right tools. Decide on a sharing platform to be used uniformly by all employees for quick and easy collaboration. Platforms such as Google Docs, SharePoint or Dropbox allow team members to collaborate on projects in real-time. Be sure to research the options available to pick a platform best suited for your team and their work.
- Build up a healthy team dynamic.
A positive workplace environment helps employees feel comfortable bringing their best ideas and work to the table. Set clear rules for how people will participate when having team discussions so that everyone feels heard. For example, during a video call, establish that everyone will use a raise-hand feature when they want to speak or decide to reserve the chat for questions to avoid people talking over each other.
- Allow for social moments.
While it’s easy to connect when working in the same building, connecting with your virtual team members is more complicated. To help your team connect socially, try creating a virtual water cooler session. Breakout room discussions are not only more productive but also more intimate and allow for greater social discussion. Set up a specific chat for social and non-work related conversation to help employees get to know each other. Finally, plan an online hangout for your team to unwind and connect. For example, play an online board game or set up a TV or movie watch party. Maintaining a social aspect on your remote team is critical, especially when onboarding new hires. New employees joining your remote team may have never been able to meet their co-workers in person and helping them feel welcome and connected will make for a more productive team.
Working from home is a part of the new normal for many which means a lot of these experiences are new as well. When leading your remote team, allow for growing pains.
Some of the new messaging platforms or online hangouts might feel uncomfortable at first, and some of them just might not be right for your team. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your team on what’s working and what you can improve on. It’s important to remember that even though you might not be in the same building, you are still on the same team, working toward the same goal.
Your organization might even consider adding upskilling and reskilling training to help employees adopt new technologies and learn the interpersonal skills needed to leverage them for the new world of work.