New emergent technologies have challenged traditional ways of doing business and drastically changed how organizations work and sell their products and services. In a globalized world faced with technological challenges, top level managements are being introduced to new unforeseen opportunities while reaching their objectives. Technology induced changes have forced many businesses to embrace change management and support organizational restructuring to bring in technology based work processes in their day-to-day activities and processes. Traditional hierarchies are now being replaced by tech savvy portfolios and flexible working patterns. Marketing teams are becoming predominantly digital in nature and relying more and more upon collaborative work processes in which people and teams in remote locations form a part of the work force and contribute to the overall success of an organization. In this present day scenario, the virtual team leader plays a crucial role in meeting new business related challenges and paving a bright future for the organization.
Tips to become a competent virtual team leader
The following pointers can help you become an effective virtual team leader.
- Collaborate and get the team together
Collaboration is the key to streamlining work processes. When team members get to know each other and understand each other’s thought processes, miscommunication gives way to effective sharing of thoughts which is a prelude to healthy discussions and formation of great strategies. Face-to-face communications amongst team members is an excellent way to build trust. However, this can be difficult when teams are geographically distributed and have to work across different time zones. Video streaming tools and live conferencing software can go a long way in supporting healthy collaboration between team members. The virtual team leader should try to promote collaboration processes to build effective teams.
- Focus on tasks and processes besides goals and objectives
Team managers and leaders have to align their virtual teams and make them embrace processes and methods which can help to achieve primary goals and objectives envisioned by the management. With new teams, coordination of project related activities and encouraging people to interact more frequently with each other can prove to be a daunting task, especially when teams are distributed and operate on different time zones. It is more important to focus on bite-sized tasks and pay close attention to the process that actually facilitates the execution of tasks, rather than emphasizing upon goals and objectives all the time. It is worthwhile to understand that processes can execute properly only when tasks are properly detailed and defined. Virtual team leaders should give more emphasis on detailing tasks and streamlining work processes.
- Deal with cultural differences and ideas
Organizations the world over outsource work processes to reduce operational overheads and increase investment returns. Outsourcing proves to be beneficial but it brings its own set of issues. Societies and people have their own beliefs regarding religion and sense of moral ethics. At times, this can be a hindrance when team members have to decide on their own and undertake informed decisions. Something that might be perfectly acceptable and normal in one culture might be unacceptable in another. Friday is a holy day and a weekly offday in most Gulf countries. Businesses prefer to remain closed on that day, while in the west Fridays are generally meant for weekly reports and next week planning meetings. Virtual team leaders should make efforts to understand the mindset of people belonging to different cultures and respect their beliefs.
- Use the best technology and tools
It doesn’t make sense to enter a battle field with bows and arrows when the enemy is using guns and grenades. The technology used to govern the work process often decides the success and outcomes of a project. With new technologies emerging day-by-day, there is a lot of scope in terms of features and facilities offered by various project management tools. It is imperative that correct tools be used to monitor work and make teams accountable for the work it does. Virtual team leaders should research properly and find the correct online tools which can boost productivity levels.
- Set pace and rhythm
It is highly common to see startups begin systematically by focusing upon the right things at the right time and eventually fail over time. Correct tools and processes are very important for successful project execution, but it is equally important to ascertain that the velocity at which the team is churning out work is maintained steadily day-after-day and month-after-month. Efforts should be regular and consistent in nature to make the project work. Virtual team leaders should help the team maintain a steady pace and rhythm at work.
- Agree upon a “common” language
A common problem faced by most team leaders while working with cross functional and remotely distributed teams is to effectively convey an idea and ensure that the team has understood it well. Confusions arise when technical terms are misinterpreted and wrong actions are carried out by team members. It may seem difficult at first but it can actually be easy to communicate in a language that is understood by all. Discuss terminology and work processes with remote teams and ask them to describe what they have understood – You’re sure to pinpoint a potential pitfall when you hear their explanations.
- Take some time out to just chill and have a great time
Project work can be boring and make people lose interest in their work over time. People need recreation to relax their minds from time to time. Arranging a virtual get-together and sharing a few mugs of beer can increase the comradeship and foster good relations.
- Assign and demand work
You will not get anything unless you ask for it. If virtual team leaders do not assign sufficient work to team members they will definitely compromise on the team’s capacity to do work. A little bit of work pressure is healthy for the team to perform at optimum levels.
- Distribute leadership
There is nothing more irritating than a senior who keeps on yelling out orders to subordinates all the time. It makes people insensitive towards work. Virtual team leaders should try to play a servant-leader role and share leadership with the team members from time to time and when the situation so demands.
- Give credit to the team
Many times team leaders and managers blame the team when something goes wrong. However they forget to praise the team when it has performed well. Lack of appreciation can lead to unsatisfied employees and reduced productivity. Virtual team leaders should give credit to the team when it has achieved goals and motivate them to be even more productive.
Considering the complex market scenario, the work of a virtual team leader is more important than ever, and he or she is required to utilize all skills necessary to make their teams productive. Team leaders should try to educate themselves and pick up useful pointers to streamline work processes and improve ROIs for their organizations.