In times of home office work, virtual (some call it remote) leadership is the competency needed. For us leaders the question arise: what exactly is needed and how to deploy it?
Establish a virtual team culture
We start with the aspect that may be the most difficult part of working remotely—and is the most important one. Culture can be rapidly lost when teams physically disperse. There is no coffee break, no team event, no shared lunch in cyberspace. Excellent leaders focus on creating and nurturing a virtual culture for their team members. How to do so?
Bridge physical distance with virtual social closeness.
Take regularly the phone and call each of your leaders or team members without a specific target. Call because you are interested in the person and ask how he/she feels and gets along with the situation. Show an active interest in all the topics that arouse, without solving them. Just listen and show an honest interest. This is called empathy and is the bridge for a sustainable relationship.
Provide stability through adapted team rules
In a virtual cooperation the rules for cooperation need to be quickly adapted. Otherwise confusion appears and leads to more workload. When do we all meet in the virtual room? Which topics are agreed and decided together? Which tools do we all use? And assign roles to the team to ensure focus and to encourage engagement. A “KIS- master (KIS =keep it short)” for example, ensures that the team doesn’t get stuck in unnecessary long discussions. A “yogi master” ensures that the team’s energy level is at its best. The “timekeeper” performs timeboxing.
Nurture team spirit through creative remote rituals and participate
Install daily small rituals with your leaders or team members.
E.g. every day at 09:30am you have a 15 minute Zoom coffee chat, a virtual coffee break where you chat about life, family, sport - anything that is additional to your job important. You as the leader have to participate, to show presence and co-create a culture of openness and relaxation.
Be transparent, always and everywhere
At a time when the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty itself, leaders should make an extra effort to be totally transparent about their work, ongoing deadlines, and their personal responses—even if the answer is, “I don’t know right now.”