Leading a virtual team presents a unique set of challenges.
As a leader, it’s up to you to create a collaborative, supportive atmosphere among people who are separated by distance, time zone, and culture. Your remote workers need to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves, and they need to form strong relationships with each other in order to create the best advantage for your business.
Being a great leader includes empowering each person on your virtual team to feel connected, inspired, and important. How can you do this?
Here are 10 ways you can be a great leader of your virtual team:
1. Use multiple methods to communicate
Something important happens when we hear each other’s voices. Move beyond email to hop on a voice call, gather in a virtual meeting room, or create a short video to communicate with your team. Let them hear your voice and see your expressions so you become more than words on a screen.
2. Create and share team profiles
Include professional information (like the best way to contact, key responsibilities, etc.) and a touch of some personal, fun stuff too like “superpower” or “favorite guilty pleasure”. Encourage your team to get to know one another as people, and encourage a sense of camaraderie in the group.
3. Send thoughtful gifts
Many contractors and freelancers are part of more than one team. Make your work stand out by sending a small, thoughtful gift to show your appreciation or welcome a new person to the team. Want to really stand out? Send a gift to your team member’s spouse or significant other as a way to express gratitude for the support and encouragement your team member receives at home.
4. Create opportunities to network virtually
Celebrate wins, acknowledge achievements, and build relationships by intentionally creating moments together where everyone can relax and chat. Use the minutes before a meeting, after a live event, and while you’re on a call to have fun together and talk about things that aren’t work-related.
5. Be prolific and public with your praise
Look for opportunities to give a virtual pat on the back for a job well done. Be intentional about sharing praise in the moments when the team is together so that everyone can celebrate the achievements of the individuals in the group.
6. Schedule meetings and interaction considerately
Try to find a time of day that fits within each person’s normal work schedule. If this is impossible due to time zone issues, be considerate and alternate meeting times so no one person on the team feels left out or constantly inconvenienced.
7. Create a shared space for collaboration and curating resources
Use tools such as Google Drive, Trello, or Asana to collaborate and communicate together. Share documents and resources in a single space, so everyone has the same access to materials and same ability to share thoughts and progress.
8. Encourage input from everyone on the team
Some people are naturally extroverted and contribute easily and often. Others hang back and wait for an opening. Make an effort to ask questions and seek input from everyone on the team and facilitate open discussions where you can.
9. Meet regularly with team members one-on-one
Use these moments to not only evaluate progress and communicate expectations but also to build relationships and trust. Look for opportunities to laugh together, share personal stories, and identify common goals. Ask questions, and listen attentively to the answers.
10. Be accessible
Working as a part of a virtual team can feel lonely at times. When leading your virtual team, be open about your schedule, generous with your time, and responsive to requests from your team. Let them know you care about them by keeping your virtual door open.
As a leader, your virtual team looks to you as a source of motivation for their work. It’s up to you to set the vision for the team, inspire them to take action, and help them stay engaged with a project all the way through to the desired conclusion.