E Leadership – 5 Practices to turn Chaos to Consciousness
The current situation over the last 4-6 weeks has driven IT and HR teams to creatively pool talent and expert employees for eradicating the time and space barriers. Businesses are profoundly investigating on virtual teams’ performance enhancement while providing high level of responsiveness and flexibility.
While virtual work settings can deliver superior performance and become an important source of value creation, on the downside, virtual teaming can also be plagued by a number of logistical, technical and socio-emotional challenges including differing cultural norms, expectations, and communication styles.
How can leaders of virtual teams address these challenges and ensure diverse team members and stakeholders can work together efficiently and effectively?
We have started working with a few clients on how to enable their supervisors and managers working with virtual teams to embrace this change and also have mutually agreed-on goals. Once only talking points, I believe these five E’s hold significant promise as they become a reality in 2020 for what I call ‘E-Leadership’, [broadly defined in 2001 (Avolio et al.)]
If you’ve established trust, you’ve set everyone up for open dialogue which is a foundation of successful teamwork.
Effective leaders should take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams when working remotely.
Another tactic that you use in conference calls is to also ensure all key conversations happen ‘on the line’ when all team members are present and that side conversations are kept to a minimum. This prevents doubt and reassures them so they don’t have to wonder.
Caring about your employees is critical to developing the trust that employees need to effectively perform. Leaders need to recognize that remote workplaces can create special situations that require more empathy because of the lack of physical proximity. For instance, they have to understand that an employee not answering the phone on the first ring doesn’t mean they are not working.
Leaders who recognize this and practice empathy and patience - rather than jumping to conclusions about a person’s tone or intention - help cultivate an environment of trust, openness and improved performance.
Lack of accountability can be an issue for virtual teams, particularly when working cross-functionally. Leaders need to be vigilant about defining and communicating roles in virtual teams to prevent diffusion of responsibility.
Choosing technology that is fit for purpose can help to moderate the impact of personality factors, mask perceived status differences, distribute participation opportunities, and focus attention on the message instead of the messenger.
Using project management tracking systems to check on individual progress, or daily updates at intervals can be extremely helpful.
Since you are working remotely with your teams, you won’t have the moments to talk about issues that can drain overall team productivity. Share your calendar, give more time to your 1:1s with team members, and give them the time to contact you on Skype or any other app without confliction of meetings.
Set up frequent brainstorming sessions to ensure all team members have been heard and can voice their opinions and make suggestions.
Unmuting calls also allows for jokes and shared laughter which fosters team morale and cohesion. Background noises during a call can be a reminder that people, not machines, are on the line or that a person is joining a call at an odd hour, or even at home wearing their pyjamas.
Leaders need to manage expectation of themselves and their teams from the beginning. This on-going dialogue prevents big mistakes later. If they need to provide course corrections, leaders should it through the right channels.
You may work around the clock (certainly not recommended), but don't expect the same of your employees. Even in normal circumstances, family and home demands can impinge on remote work; leaders should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.
At the same time, make it clear that multitasking on calls isn’t ok. As a leader make sure you explain basic Do’s and Don’ts while working from home or taking calls and when the group has a virtual meeting, better yet, switch to video, which can essentially eliminate multitasking.
As things stand, it is hard to predict how long this will be the new normal. But virtual leadership is here to stay. As we move into the 2020s, it’s also an exciting time for top-to-bottom transformation of our departments. Shaped by these five trends, I am sure we can move forward with developing a clear vision for on-going success in training and sustaining successful leaders.