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3 Ways Leaders Can Connect to Their Virtual Teams

Much like in a traditional office set-up, workers still need to be in sync with the whole team

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 29 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Digital communication platforms have influenced the way we work. Apps like Slack and Asana make operations of virtual teams possible. People from different continents can now work on the same project without having to go to a physical office and see each other face-to-face.

Building a virtual team has its benefits—access to a huge pool of skilled workers, cost savings, increased efficiency, and organizational flexibility. But just as how virtual teams give several advantages in today’s work, it is not too different from a traditional work environment where teams need to be constantly connected and motivated to keep up with the daily grind.

Here are three things great leaders must do to lead successful virtual teams:

1. Communicate constantly

Communication is the key to solving to almost any problem, no matter where in the globe your team members are.

“For virtual teams, communication should be constant and deliberate. Aside from the usual chat and email conversations, regular one-on-one sessions are important not only to maintain the connection to my direct reports but also to build strong working relationships. These are done via video calls so there is a sense of “seeing” each other, even if we just work virtually,” says Leica Chang, operations manager at Thumbtack—an online service that matches clients with local professionals.

2. Trust your team

“Ideally, the only employees you will have hired are those you can trust to do what needs to be done even without close supervision,” as this Inc. Southeast Asia article suggests.

Trusting your team gives them a sense of empowerment. Spare yourself the headache that comes from micromanaging people. You hired your team; they are skilled and talented enough to do the work in their own excellent way. But just as what all organizations need to do to grow and ensure quality of work, performance reviews must be done to assess and identify areas of improvement.

Niner Bikes CEO Chris Sugai says in this Inc. article, “I think when you give people that power, they don't abuse it.” He adds, “Letting employees work remotely is the best thing we've ever done. It was an idea that kind of arose organically as the company grew, [and it] worked out wonderfully. All we care about is that the work gets done properly.”

3. Put things in context

People tend to ask the question why. We’re not robots, anyway. It is context that makes us understand the meaning behind seemingly random things, such as delegated tasks. As a leader of a virtual team, it is essential to make the team see, feel, and understand the reason behind the tasks so they can see the bigger picture.

“Aside from guaranteed and timely compensation for hours worked, employees generally feel happy whenever they feel that they are contributing to a greater goal. Communicating with them and making them understand the impact of their work helps in keeping them engaged and productive when working at home,” says Chang.