Top tips on leading teams virtually
With many interim roles continuing to operate under hybrid working, interim managers may still find themselves in the position of leading their teams virtually. You may have days working in an office environment with your team, or you may rarely get to see your full team in person at any one time. This has the potential to create challenges in how to manage and lead your team during the assignment.
We asked several of our interim managers what their advice was for leading teams virtually.
Make a good impression
Leading new staff can be daunting, especially when starting remotely. Staff do not know you and may make assessments based on what they see over video calls or what they read in the introductory information about you. You also have less to benchmark your team against when starting remotely.
Under normal circumstances team members may be very efficient but now other pressures and stresses resulting from the pandemic and hybrid working may be impacting their work. Managers must continue to take into consideration the personal circumstances of the team and how these may be impacting on their work capacity and capabilities.
Taking the time to learn and understand what the team’s priorities are, can help managers understand the project process and team culture, though it is also important to remember your team’s priorities may differ from yours.
Invest time to get to know your team – do they want chats or virtual coffees, or would they rather catch up in person on the days working from the office?
Be accessible, visible, and approachable and make a conscious effort to build relationships with your team so they feel confident picking up the phone for advice or guidance.
It is also worth noting that working remotely can cause some team members to feel isolated, even with hybrid working seeing the reintroduction of face-to-face meetings, a lot of meetings – especially larger meetings, may continue to stay virtual. Some staff members may still be cautious about the return to work, commuting or being around large numbers of people.
Getting to know the team:
1-to-1 meetings are a great way to get to know your team members better, taking time to invest in these can build working relations and improve understanding of assignment deliverables. With hybrid working, many 1-to-1s may be able to be conducted in person, however, some may continue to happen virtually, and it is important to build in some informal chats into 1-to-1s to continue to foster positive working relationships.
If 1-to-1 meetings are undertaken virtually, it may be a good idea to ask for a camera on policy, as it is already harder to read body language, assess emotional intelligence and engagements virtually, keeping cameras on will help identify non-verbal cues. Also, holding 1-to-1s in person can be beneficial from time to time.
It is likely the group meetings, especially large meetings, may continue to be conducted virtually – this enables more colleagues to attend, increase collaboration across offices and can help maintain adherence to company and government covid policies.
Holding group meetings virtually has its own set of challenges. Zoom meetings tend to be more formal, there is nothing impromptu about them and certain team members may not feel confident speaking out in larger groups. Encouraging team members to use the chat function in zoom and teams’ meetings could help improve participation.
It is also a good idea to have regular contact with key players when you understand the landscape of a project and don’t just focus on the busiest areas. Look at the quieter areas to gauge a holistic view of the project.
The well-being of yourself and others is crucial. Be patient, flexible and approachable - everyone is continuing to deal and adjust to the after effects of the pandemic in different ways, and everyone has slightly different circumstances and coping mechanisms.
Encourage the team to reach out if they are struggling. Introducing well-being incentives for the team has proven successful in some circumstances or encourage sharing of good well-being tips or staff training surrounding mental health.
Whilst keeping cameras on can help with identifying when team members are struggling – especially in 1-to-1s or small group meetings, it may also be a good idea to hold at least a day a week where cameras are switched off to help avoid Zoom fatigue.
For more information, please contact Zoe Spalding.