How to Lead Remote Teams: 12 Tips for Effective Leadership in a Virtual Work Environment

How to Lead Remote Teams: 12 Tips for Effective Leadership in a Virtual Work Environment

Daniel Hall 16/02/2023
How to Lead Remote Teams: 12 Tips for Effective Leadership in a Virtual Work Environment

It's no secret that the workplace is changing.

With more and more people working remotely, the traditional in-person office environment is becoming a thing of the past. 

Data suggests that 16% of all companies are now fully remote. Moreover, remote employees report being more productive while working at home. Therefore, this figure is expected to rise in the coming years.

Remote working offers numerous benefits. However, it also comes with unique challenges that leaders and managers must consider if they want their teams to be happy, motivated, and productive. Here are twelve insightful tips on how to lead virtual teams effectively.

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1. Choose the Right Method of Communication 

In a digital ecosystem, technology is in abundance and with it comes different methods of communicating. 

The goal of communication is to relay information. But depending on the message and urgency, your communication mode will greatly affect efficiency. That's why using the appropriate medium for each message is integral.

Here's a breakdown of when each medium is ideal:

  • Email or project management tools like Trello - Suitable when communicating long messages or something that needs to be referenced later. It should be the go-to method in most cases.

  • Instant messaging via Gchat or MS Teams- Perfect for quick questions that require a fast response.

  • Video conferencing- Used to build relationships, have face-to-face conversations, and give presentations. 

  • Phone- Suitable for sensitive conversation that can't be done in person

When you're getting used to virtual interactions, be open to new tools and willing to adapt your usage. It may be necessary to experiment with various media to find the best solution for each requirement.

Allow yourself time to become acclimated to these solutions; even tech-savvy millennials may need time to get used to new technology.

2. Create Personalized Connections and Adapt Your Leadership Style to Each Team Member 

The key to any effective team is trust. That starts with building personal relationships between leaders and team members.

In a remote work environment, this can be difficult to achieve. Therefore, getting creative in how you connect with your team members on a personal level is important. 

One way to do this is by arranging regular video calls or face-to-face meetings. This gives you a chance to see each other outside of work and get to know one another on a more personal level.

It's also important to remember that not everyone responds to the same leadership style. Therefore, adapt your style to each team member. 

Some employees may prefer a more hands-on approach, while others may prefer to be given more freedom. The key is to figure out what works best for each person and adjust accordingly.

3. Empower Your Team to Make their Own Decisions as Much as Possible

One of the benefits of working remotely is that employees are given more autonomy. Studies show that workers given more independence are happier and more productive. 

Therefore, it's essential to let your team make their own decisions as much as possible. Not only will this boost morale, but it will also help them feel like valued team members.

Of course, some leaders may ask ‘how do you ensure everyone stays on track if people are making their own decisions and having a say in all matters?’—and these are valid concerns. 

Luckily, there is a way to balance giving people the freedom they need to thrive and ensuring leadership priorities are executed. For autonomous work to be successful, organizations must have three foundational pillars in place: transparency, accountability, and impact.

4. Encourage and Reward Creativity 

In a remote work environment, creativity is key. The best way to encourage it is by providing employees with the freedom to experiment. 

Tell your team members that it's okay to take risks and try new things—and if they come up with a great idea, reward them for their efforts. This will show them that you value their creativity and are willing to invest in new ideas.

Remote work can be a great way to boost productivity and creativity. But it's important to remember that it takes some time to get used to. So be patient, build personal relationships and let your team members take the lead on their work. With a little effort, you'll be leading an effective remote team in no time.

5. Facilitate Team Bonding Opportunities

It can be challenging to build relationships in a remote work environment. That's why it's crucial to facilitate team bonding opportunities. 

One way to do this is by arranging regular video calls or face-to-face meetings. This gives you a chance to see each other outside of work and get to know one another on a more personal level.

Another way to build relationships is by arranging group activities. This could be anything from a virtual happy hour to an online scavenger hunt. The key is to find something that everyone will enjoy and that will help them bond with one another.

6. Be a Source of Motivation

In a remote work environment, it's important for managers and leaders to be a source of motivation. This means setting clear goals and expectations for your team, and checking in on these goals and expectations to offer guidance and advice. 

It also means providing regular feedback and recognition. If someone is struggling, be sure to offer support and encouragement. With a little effort, you can help your team stay focused and motivated when they're working from home.

7. Create Strong Structures and Systems

In a remote work environment, strong structures and systems are essential. Whether you’re talking about career development expectations, knowledge management, or how to share information between teams, it’s critical to haveclear policies and procedures in place. 

It also means setting up regular check-ins and performance reviews. If there's ever a problem, be sure to address it immediately. Creating strong structures and systems can help your team stay on track to achieving their goals and the company’s goals. 

8. Hire the Right People 

In a remote work environment, the last thing you need is an employee who needs constant supervision. You'll constantly worry about whether they're on track to accomplish tasks. And any delays on their part will affect other people's work resulting in disharmony.

Therefore, you must hire the right people in a remote work environment. Look for employees who are self-motivated and can work independently. Some of the traits you should be keen on include:

  • Ability to take initiative 

  • Good communication skills 

  • Time management skills 

  • Organizational skills 

  • High level of responsibility 

Hiring the right people can set your team up for success from the start and this will make it much easier for you to lead an effective remote team.

9. Build a Team Culture of Trust

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to build a team culture of trust. This means creating an environment where your team members feel comfortable communicating. 

It also means establishing clear expectations and giving employees the freedom to work independently. Then, with a team culture of trust, you'll be able to create an effective remote team that can accomplish anything.

10. Prioritize Virtual Team Training

As with other setups, training is essential to developing a remote team. While one may assume your team will have to meet in person for such, that's not the case. 

There are several ways to provide virtual team training. For example, you can use video conferencing, webinars, or create collaborative learning eLearning courses. The key is finding a method that works for your team and ensuring everyone receives the same level of training.

Some of the benefits of training remote teams include:

  • It helps to improve communication 

  • It can boost morale 

  • It can increase productivity 

  • It can help to build relationships 

You can help your team be more effective in their work by providing virtual team training. In turn, your work will be much easier. 

11. Publicly Praise Employees

Employees who work remotely often report feeling isolated from their colleagues and disconnected from the company as a whole from time to time. In addition, they may feel their work is not appreciated as much as those working from the office. 

For these reasons, praising remote employees when they do an excellent job publicly is essential. Doing so will help them feel appreciated and valued and motivate them to continue doing their best work. 

Additionally, praising remote employees in front of their colleagues will help to build morale and encourage others to work hard. Publicly praising remote employees is a simple but effective way to show that you value their contributions and keep them engaged with the company. You can use software such as Lattice or Mo to do this digitally.

12. Lead by Example

It’s important to lead by example if you want your team to be successful. One of the most important things you can do is to be available and accessible to your team members. This means responding to their questions and concerns and proactively communicating with them. 

Leaders must also set clear boundaries between work and home. Be sure to encourage your team to switch off at the end of the day and on weekends, making sure you do the same so that you don’t create a culture of ‘always on’ which often results in burnout amongst teams.

Additionally, it's important to create a strong culture of transparency and trust. This can be done by being clear and concise in your communication and ensuring that everyone on the team feels like they're part of the decision-making process. 

Finally, it's vital to set clear expectations for your team members and hold them accountable for meeting those expectations. 

Always Keep Improving

As a leader, your team counts on you for many things: guidance, motivation, and support. You can achieve all this by helping your team members to continue improving and acquiring new skills. Partnering with your L&D department to help build a culture of upskilling is critical to employee engagement and retention, as well as being the most effective way to plug the skills gap. Ready to start upskilling from within? Speak to one of 360Learning’s specialists today.

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.

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