Managing Virtual Teams – Project Management Software
Are you a team leader feeling lost and being unable to find the best way…
Are you a team leader feeling lost and being unable to find the best way to manage your staff virtually? You are not alone, many in your position have felt or are feeling the same way especially if you have moved from the traditional office to work virtually. Either you are an experienced manager or just recently promoted to the position, you probably know already that leading from a distance is definitely not an easy task. Many managers find it rather difficult and even frustrating sometimes to supervise their teams without having them together and closer in person. It is a situation that, especially at its early stages, that tends to put some distance between team members and their managers who have to be fast on their feet to find ways to keep their workers motivated and moving in the right direction.
For this reason a good starting point is learning to Manage the distance. As the manager you need to ensure that the team has enough confidence in both themselves and in you. The staff needs to feel that you are available for them as usual and that the work rhythm is the same as it has always been. Distance is relative and it can be as far or close as you let it be. It’s important that you and your workers feel that despite the distance everyone can easily communicate, operate and complete the tasks. It’s more of a “working on you first” duty, you must not let the perception of distance decrease your confidence and trust in your workers so they keep their confidence and trust in you and in each other as well.
Your team will feel as close to you as you want them to feel and it is your responsibility as manager to make them see and understand that you are ready to deliver the support needed as if they were in the office. This might seem difficult in the beginning but once you got it the ship will sail at normal pace as you are used to. Once you ensured sure every team member feels close to each other and to you despite the distance, comes keeping the level of trust in your team high. This has happened to every single manager working virtually regardless their previous background.
At some point you will probably start having doubts about the work or the level of effort that your staff is putting into it. It can happen for many different reasons and naming even a few of them would be a waste of time, what’s really important is that you work on building and maintaining a good level of trust both vertically and horizontally. Building a good trust base between teammates not only generates a good work atmosphere, it will also make communication easier and information exchange much more efficient which will turn into a better team performance.
Clear and transparent communication is an important bridge of digitally working. Since you are not all together and emails or chats are quite open to interpretation sometimes, it’s important you keep your team informed and update information regularly. This also helps to keep the trust level high. Periodically set meetings and calls, plan weekly targets and tasks. Define the work methods and strategies more often so the team has less questions. Fortunately there are plenty of tools that allow you to have a good communication with your team so there shouldn’t be a reason not to pass the messages clear and have a personal approach despite the distance.
Use technology in your favor and not against you. Working virtually can easily generate useless electronic correspondence. Chat or email abuse can not only be confusing a create misunderstandings but it also is counterproductive. It’s importante to have this matter under control and that the team members are also aware of it as it can rapidly create a work overload that isn’t real but will affect the productivity of the team. Also use the right tool for the right purpose. Video calls are way more effective quick and personal than a large email exchange. Use project management tools to keep everything organized and accessible to everyone. It’s a great tool to keep track of whats happening and will also help promoting autonomy within the team.
Keep the “office hours” or at least overlap shifts is important to maintain a good team feeling. It’s ok to be flexible with the work hours, it will relax the team and proves you trust them. But having your staff working the same hours (or overlapping some work hours) as if they were together in the office promotes good communication and trust among other things. It is also a great and quick problem solver and the team members feel supported by each other. It will also help maintain job consistency and prevents everyone from making their own working hours schedule which could potentially be a harder problem to fix later on.
Keep in mind that the people working with you and that you are supervising away from the office are the same as those who work in the office. And for that reason everybody knows already what needs to be done and how to do it. Keep the personal connection with them, highlight their qualities or congratulate them when they do a good job it’s a fantastic way of maintaining the team feeling which brings huge benefits within it. Ultimately the hardest part of how to manage a virtual team is probably adaptation. But reality is the earlier you adapt to the new work environment the earlier you can start to find your own way to effectively manage your virtual team. Nevertheless you can be assured that by putting in practice the points previously mentioned you will start building a solid virtual team basis that will allow you to continue chasing the goals once started in the traditional office.
Founder of Uppwise, Gioacchino has solid hands-on, experience and vision in the PPM Market, gained as a startupper and founder of a number of software & cloud-services companies. During the last two years he has lead the company transformation, shifting from the offering of a traditional PPM product to a new suite of SPM, APM and CWM products.