Balancing empathy, efficiency, and excellence to ensure the best performance from your virtual team.
The one thing, among several others, that Covid-19 has put to the test is leadership skills. Leaders the world over have been called to peel off the plastic from their Business Continuity Plan and use it. To keep a cool head, and juggle their business commitments with commitments to their teams. Because every person reacts differently to a crisis, it is up to leaders to uncover the most effective ways to motivate and engage their teams in a virtual workplace. Here are some good practices:
1. Acknowledge their situation
Each person has a different reality and juggles multiple roles outside their official ones – there are houses to run, kids to attend to, parents to care for… make compassionate empathy the first step in engagement.
2. Set time aside for follow-ups and conversations with your team
Keep the one-to-ones going. Dedicate time as often as your schedule permits to catch up with individual members. It will give you a sense of where they might need support with their work tasks and what you can do to help them.
3. Encourage knowledge sharing and acquiring
A time of crisis can also be a time of innovation, because a shifting landscape opens up several opportunities for change. Challenge your team with creative problem-solving. Create a platform to share it, and implement good ideas.
4. Set small, achievable goals
Every journey to the finish begins with one small step. Give your team work-tasks to complete – individually or in a group. Go for smaller achievable goals that have quicker outcomes.
5. Reward and acknowledge
Encourage and reward contributions, and share achievements with the entire team. Most people appreciate appreciation.
6. Continue coaching and mentoring
A number of people on the team may count on face-time and communication with their peers and more experienced teammates as a source of new information or simply as a way to stimulate creativity. If you are a part of a well-established coaching system, great, continue to keep communication lines open. If you aren’t, this is a good time to start.
7. Don’t forget to have fun
A week ago, 38 of us at work had an online, video-enabled knowledge-sharing session. Joining the meet-and-greet were a bunch of kids, a few spouses, and an enthusiastic Labrador called Maggie. It was one of the rare meetings I’ve been a part of that had 100% attendance and started on time.
Most of us will be working virtually for at least the next few weeks. It is easy to ‘forget’ virtual teams and your role in engaging with them. Make a conscious effort to build it into your schedule, and set aside the time and technology to make it happen. Practicing empathy can be hard work, especially when you are trying to balance it with efficiency. However, it’s not an option anymore – the health of your team depends on it.
– By Tanya Dsouza, VP – Learning Design at MPS Interactive Systems