Virtual leaders face the same challenges as in-office leaders and managers. If you want to improve your strategies for remote teams management, consider these 12 tips for being seen as an effective remote leader.
12 Tips for Being Seen as an Effective Remote Leader
Though many employees love the idea of working from home (or anywhere in the world), some professionals view telecommuting as a hindrance to effective leadership. Businesses who operate 100% remote teams tend to have an easier time managing and leading workers than those who have a mixture of virtual and co-located staff. For example, one study by Brigham Young University found that leaders are more effective when all team members telecommute, or all team members work in the same physical space. However, hybrid environments can create confusion, disparities, and team cohesiveness.
So, how can you attract and retain top talent, lead a successful team, and drive business objectives while working remotely? Here are some ways you can help position yourself as an effective virtual leader.
1. Communicate with Team Members Frequently
Communication is the key to all successful relationships. Remote teams often rely on proactive communication from leaders to stay in-the-know and feel included. Therefore, as a virtual leader, you need to establish clear and frequent communication channels to keep team members informed and motivated.
Communication Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Make your expectations for the team and each member crystal clear.
- Hold a standing team meeting on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
- Hold short, regular meetings with each individual team member.
- Acknowledge accomplishments and thank your team for their hard work.
2. Increase Your Work Visibility
It’s easier to set the pace and boost team morale when your team can see you in action. Though you don’t share a common physical space, you can still demonstrate your diligence by sharing your calendar, posting status updates, adhering to deadlines, and sending reminders. If your team sees you rocking out your tasks while working from home, they’ll be more motivated to keep pace and complete their to-do lists.
Visibility Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Use a project management application to track status and assign tasks.
- Send weekly status updates to the entire team to show progress and address setbacks.
- Share your work calendar so that others can see your daily task structure and activity level.
3. Create Effective Training and Onboarding Experiences
Online learning management systems (LMSs) and onboarding applications help facilitate training among remote teams. However, such tools are only as useful as the content they contain. Therefore, put in the effort to create meaningful, engaging, and well-organized training and onboarding programs so that team members stay alert and retain valuable information.
Training Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Host live video training sessions for new hires, project launches, and social events.
- Reserve self-paced programs for non-critical training, such as annual refreshers and professional development.
- Maintain a simple internal knowledge base and allow all team members to contribute.
4. Provide Access to Useful Resources
Team members typically feel better about their jobs when they have the resources necessary to complete their tasks. In fact, 74% of Staples Workplace Survey respondents say that their employers do not provide adequate technology for workplace productivity. Thus, dedicate a portion of your budget for acquiring the resources you and your team need to succeed.
Resource Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Ask your team which resources they prefer, and which are most useful for their daily tasks.
- Purchase enough licenses and laptops to arm your team with the tools and equipment they need.
- Treat W-2 employees and 1099 contractors the same when it comes to providing access to software, laptops, and other necessary technology.
5. Foster Connection Among Team Members
Many telecommuters choose a remote career path so that they can work independently, avoid typical office distractions, and manage themselves. However, those same telecommuters may still desire a sense of connection with their remote coworkers. As a virtual leader, you need to go beyond the standard managerial role and help your team members feel that their jobs are meaningful and that they are a part of a greater community.
Community-Building Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- If possible, attend a professional conference with your team so that you can hang out in person.
- Consider hosting a three-day workshop at your company’s headquarters or a location central to most team members.
- Create an online space for “water cooler” conversation and for team members to share photos, bond, and organize among themselves.
6. Build Trust Through Reliability
Team members quickly learn to trust reliable leaders and managers. Therefore, you don’t necessarily have to put in a ton of extra effort to build trust among your team – you just have to do your job and commit. As Forbes contributor and CEO of CTM Consulting Group Nadidah Coveney recommends, “Do what you say you are going to do, not just sometimes but all the time. This builds trust, not just for today but for years to come.”
Trust-Building Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Dial into meetings on time, respond to emails promptly, and return calls and messages as soon as you can.
- Hold regular “office hours” so your team knows specific times they can reach you.
- Perform your work tasks on time and follow through on your commitments.
7. Accommodate Different Time Zones and Flexible Schedules
Flexible schedules and the ability to work in different time zones are two of telecommuting’s main perks. To avoid squashing your team members’ remote workplace enthusiasm, allow your team to manage their own time and freely move about the country.
Scheduling Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Try to accommodate as many time zones as possible when scheduling live meetings.
- Record live meetings for team members who cannot attend.
- Instead of formal meetings, consider using an application like Slack to host all-day and ad-hoc conversations.
8. Help Balance Team Autonomy
Autonomy is another major telecommuting perk that can benefit workers immensely and foster greater productivity. However, it can also backfire on leaders when team members disregard authority and develop a sense of entitlement. To avoid power struggles without infringing on your team members’ freedoms, you need to give your team enough room to manage themselves while maintaining a chain of command.
Autonomy-Balancing Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Require team members to send you weekly summaries or keep online tracking and status applications updated.
- Know each team member’s personality and work style and ease off or get more involved depending on everyone’s need for oversight.
9. Treat Local and Remote Team Members Equally
If you operate a 100% virtual company, it’s may be easier to build community and lead dispersed teams because everyone’s in the same boat. However, if you have a mix of local and remote workers, you may inadvertently favor one group over the other, which can deplete your team’s morale. One Harvard Business Review study found that remote workers tend to feel left out, ganged up on, and disregarded by in-office colleagues. As a leader, it’s your job to even the playing field and include all team members regardless of their location.
Dispersed Team Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Allow local team members to telecommute occasionally so that they are given the same opportunity as remote workers.
- If you work in the office, avoid leaning on local team members all the time and distribute responsibilities among remote workers as well.
- If you work remotely, avoid favoring telecommuters over local team members simply because you share a similar working environment.
10. Maintain Efficient Management Systems
Leaders assume very different roles than managers. However, leaders typically still have management tasks to perform to keep the team functioning. To make life easy for yourself and your staff, develop streamlined processes for submitting timesheets, vacation requests, status reports, and resource requests. If you simplify regular management tasks, your workers will be more likely to abide by your systems and turn in submissions on time.
Management Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Use cloud-based applications to collect team member information, submit requests, and track statuses.
- Leverage automation tools to send reminders, compile data, create reports, and communicate information.
11. Approach Conflict Rationally
Conflict happens, even in the remote workspace. It’s unhealthy to shy away from disagreements, and it’s harmful to let seemingly minor disputes build into full-blown arguments. Therefore, trust, connection, community, and equality are essential for addressing and resolving conflict in a professional manner. Your job as a virtual leader isn’t to prevent all conflict from occurring but to facilitate productive conversation where all team members feel heard, respected, and walk away content.
Conflict Resolution Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Maintain open communication with all team members and nurture trusting relationships so that workers feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly.
- Develop and enforce a conflict resolution policy and procedure.
- Require that employees complete annual discrimination and workplace conflict training.
12. Have Patience
Building an effective team takes time. Thus, even when you have the best systems in place, you’ll need to be patient and allow your team to mold naturally. In the meantime, become the best remote worker you know. Set the stage for all other telecommuters and office staff. People want to follow someone who’s going somewhere. Therefore, demonstrate your ambition by working hard, and your team members will catch on.
Professional Development Tips for Virtual Leaders:
- Dedicate yourself to continuous education and improvement.
- Communicate your long-term goals with your team so that they know you’re going places.
- Network with other successful virtual leaders for support and to exchange best practices.
Looking for the Right Remote Workers to Join Your Team?
Finding the right candidate is challenging for any leader in any industry. You need to consider your personal leadership style, as well as the company’s culture, and weigh both against each candidate’s experience, work history, and interview responses. Then, you need to help keep your top talent engaged so that you don’t lose your best workers.
If you’re currently short a few staff members or need to broaden your talent pool, contact our Employer Relations department to get your job listings posted to our database. With Virtual Vocations, you can tap into our exclusive telecommute community. Register your company and start attracting the nations top remote workers today!
Photo Credit: 1. iStock.com/marrio31
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Our family-owned company is committed to helping you find quality job leads. We strive to help make your work-at-home job search faster, easier and safer by bringing you scam-free jobs that offer some form of telecommuting.
Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background.