How to Lead Your Virtual Team Kindly and Courageously
The world is changing and the need to lead kindly and courageously is even more crucial and this also means when we lead virtually. Leading a virtual team requires the same sort of leadership skills as in-person situations, but it also poses different challenges.
These challenges demand an adjustment in leadership techniques and skills, but that doesn’t mean that virtual leadership is as far removed from in-person leadership as you might think.
If you’re a virtual leader, here’s how you can lead effectively, with kindness and courage, even when your team are in different places and facing different challenges and obstacles.
While you might not be in the same room, which means you can’t talk face-to-face, there are many ways to facilitate meaningful communication with your virtual team.
Video calls, emailing, phone calls, instant messaging and even text messaging are ways that you can talk with your team regularly and effectively. These types of communication can feel more informal and so may not be taken as seriously by some team members.
This is why setting clear guidelines for the use of these communication methods is important. These guidelines should include things like what to do with differences in time zones, and how to communicate urgent messages.
Build trust at every opportunity
Without being able to spend time together in person, it can be harder to develop trust within your relationships with your team members. It’s important that you really take the time to communicate with each member of the team and get to know them individually.
Whether this is through instant messaging or regular phone or video calls, you have to try even harder than in person. You must be willing to be available to your team, more so than you would be if you were in an office environment. Being honest, open and available to your team will help foster that trust and promote your accessibility.
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Ensure your team has clarity on their tasks
Your team members must know what you expect of them at any given time. You need to ensure that you have clarified each person’s role in a project or task so that there is no uncertainty.
As their leader, ask yourself if your team members know exactly what they need to do, what the other team members are going to be doing, if the deadlines are clear, and how results should be reported.
As Brene Brown so perfectly put it, “Clarity is kindness. Unclear is unkind.” If your team aren’t meeting your expectations or achieving the desired results, you must ask yourself why that is. Is it because you haven’t actually been clear to begin with.
Make sure that your team knows that they are able to come to you and ask questions for clarity if need be. It’s better that they know they can approach you, rather than flounder without direction.
Provide support and make it clear it’s available
The virtual working environment can be isolating for some people; they might thrive on the energy of being in an office space with others around. Your job as a leader is to make sure that your team is supported emotionally, as well as professionally. Check in with each team member regularly, to ask how they are doing – and really mean it.
You should also encourage your team to ask for help from you if they need it. A team that feels supported is a happy team, even in a virtual environment. This is also a great way to practice kindness.
Empower your team to exercise authority
Virtual teams are challenged by time; sometimes decisions need to be made quickly, and there isn’t time to seek out approval or direction from their leaders. This means empowering your team so that they are comfortable exercising their authority when necessary.
It can be hard to relinquish some of your control, but the most courageous leaders are those who trust in their teams and allow them some autonomy. You must also support the decisions your team members make, even if they aren’t the same decisions you might make.
Virtual leadership in a virtual world requires courage and kindness
Many leadership skills that are effective for traditional leadership also translate to virtual teams; you just need to be aware of the subtle differences that require an altered approach.
By establishing communication, empowering and supporting your team with clarity and kindness, you will build trust and develop a great relationship with each member of your team.
Be courageous enough to embrace the benefits of virtual work, and kind enough to understand the struggles that come with it, not just for yourself but for your team as well.
By Sonia McDonald
Founder and Managing Director of Leadership HQ and McDonald Inc. Leadership coach, entrepreneur, CEO and author.
Sonia McDonald is changing the face of leadership across the globe. She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, and is known for her mantra ‘Just Lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her transformational coaching, leadership training programs and cultural transformation for organisations and encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped thousands of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
Sonia is a founder and CEO of McDonald Inc., LeadershipHQ and Global Outstanding Leadership Awards and the newly launched Courage Conference. For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of leadership and she is beyond committed to her mission around building a world of great leaders.
She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader. She has been recognised by Richtopia as One of the Top 250 Influential Women across the Globe and Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is a leading coach, an award-winning published author of newly released First Comes Courage, Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and has become an in-demand keynote speaker on leadership, kindness and courage.
Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, kindness, empathy and courage as well as building outstanding leadership across the Globe.