Tips for Leading a Virtual Team and Getting Things Done

Tips for Leading a Virtual Team and Getting Things Done

Deadlines and organization are the name of the game when you’re leading a virtual team

You’ve spent the better part of two decades managing successful teams at all types of different companies. By this point, you’ve got your management style down, and you know what it takes to get the work done.

You’re about to start a new job with a fantastic company that you’ve been dying to work for, but there’s one catch—you’re going to be leading a virtual team. After a career of showing up in the office every weekday, you’re going to roll out of bed, get ready for work, and walk into the next room to fire up your computer.

On the plus side, you’ll be able to walk your dog on your lunch break and maybe even wear yoga pants once in a while. However, for all the personal benefits and excitement you’re feeling, you’re also incredibly nervous. You feel like you’re starting over again as a manager and don’t know how you’re ever going to make sure your team is doing what they’re supposed to do.

How do you manage and track time, set priorities, and collaborate when your entire team is scattered across the country?

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You have the potential to become an excellent virtual manager. Harness your powers by signing up for our Virtual Manager Membership. You’ll gain exclusive access to all of our online courses, receive ten sessions with a virtual coach every year, and more. Learn more about our Virtual Manager Membership! 

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Step one: Be aware of possible challenges

Don’t walk into day one of your virtual gig without doing prior research into the challenges you may face as a virtual manager. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time what you’re up against while leading a virtual team? This gives you plenty of opportunity to prepare yourself and create strategies for avoiding the pitfalls.

Without that that forced face-to-face time found in traditional offices, some virtual teams can crash and burn due to lack of communication and trust. If you’re aware of that from the get-go, though, you can think of ways to avoid this—like weekly group video check-ins, biweekly one-on-one meetings, and creating a chat channel where employees can talk about anything that’s not work-related.

Step two: Find the right tools

When you’re leading a virtual team, relying on just e-mails and phone calls won’t cut it. You need to research and invest in tools that are going to help your team be successful. Think about what you’re missing from a traditional office environment, and try to use technology to work it back in.

For example, it may feel like it’s easier to manage projects in a traditional environment because you can pop by an employee’s desk and ask for a status update, or hold a quick meeting. If you use a project management tool, though, like Basecamp or Asana, you can create a central location for everyone on your team to stay in touch, upload work, and provide updates. You’ll never have to guess if a project is on track because it will all be available to you in the project management system.

Look into other tools as well, like MindMeister for brainstorming sessions, Slack for easy group communication, or GoToMeeting for interactive meetings.

Step three: Set strategic deadlines

The idea of not knowing whether or not virtual employees are working can stress some managers out, but don’t let it get to you. In a survey of 2,000 office workers conducted by AtTask and Harris Interactive, employees admitted that they only spend 45 percent of their time at work actually completing their primary job duties.

What about remote workers? Most research has overwhelmingly proved that remote workers are more productive than those in an office.

The key to leading a virtual team that oozes productivity is setting strategic deadlines. Deadlines keep everyone accountable and prove to you that the work is getting done within the necessary time frame. Every single task should have a deadline associated with it, and you must be incredibly specific. Don’t say “Can you get this back to me early next week?”—instead, say “I need this back from you on Monday before 10 a.m. EST.” Be sure to include time zone if your employees aren’t all working within the same one.

Keep in mind, though, your deadlines need also to be reasonable. If you’re not sure if you’re asking for too quick of a turnaround, consult with the employee or employees involved.

Step four: Have a plan for missed deadlines

Once you’ve gone through the effort of strategically planning deadlines, they need to be enforced. If an employee misses a deadline and you don’t say anything to them about it, you’re just reinforcing the bad behavior, and there’s a greater chance they’ll miss a goal again in the future.

Don’t scream and yell and berate the worker. Just send them a quick note telling them you noticed they missed their deadline, ask why they think it happened, and also ask if there’s anything you can do to help them be more successful moving forward. It shows you care, but it also shows you’re on top of things and aren’t going to let things slip through the cracks.

There’s a learning curve when you’re learning to lead a virtual team, but once you figure it out, you’ll probably be amazed by how productive your team actually is. When you remove all the noise, wasteful meetings, and pressure to “look busy,” you give your employees a real chance to shine.

What do you think is the biggest difference between leading an in-house team and a virtual team?

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You have the potential to become an excellent virtual manager. Harness your powers by signing up for our Virtual Manager Membership. You’ll gain exclusive access to all of our online courses, receive ten sessions with a virtual coach every year, and more. Learn more about our Virtual Manager Membership! 

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