Being a team leader is an important responsibility, one that should not be taken lightly. The way a team is led sets the tone for how successful it will be. For example, Babiker et al (2014) have found that effective leadership is a key characteristic of an overall efficient team.
There are many things that need to be taken into account when it comes to leading a team, especially in the case of virtual or hybrid teams. We are all aware that the lack of in-person interaction creates a gap in communication and the building of team relationships. So, it’s important that a leader is INTENTIONAL about tackling these obstacles created by the lack of consistency of office time, to ensure the smooth running of the team.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to tackle these problems by yourself. We have a few tips to share that will ensure you are leading your team in the most effective way possible.
Living out company values.
It is, of course essential for a leader to lead by example, to represent the values of their company, and to act as a role model for the team. Team members will look to their leader for guidance; therefore, a leader must be seen to be leading and working in the ways that they expect their team members to work. A paper by Zeuge et al (2020) suggests that team members will look to their leader for guidance; therefore, a leader must be seen to be leading and working in the ways that they expect their team members to work.
We find that many people have not thought about what the company values mean for how they communicate and behave at work. It is important for a leader to reflect on what the values mean for them, how these organisational values align to their own values as a human being, and to support others to reflect similarly. A leader expecting their team to live out company values while at work but not leading by example can cause rifts within team relationships.
If we consider our own personal values and what is most important to us, we have more in common than we realise. Having conversations about values with colleagues, both our own personal values, and how they align to the company values is powerful for building trust, psychological safety, and closing any distance we might feel.
Flexibility and adaptability.
In order to tackle the potential challenges of virtual leadership, it is important for a leader to be capable of creating a flexible working environment, as well as being able to adapt to any and all changes that may come their way. Creating a flexible working environment can aid in reducing problems caused by miscommunication, lack of control and ineffective coordination within virtual teams.
Research, and our own experiences, show the negative effects of not eating properly, drinking enough water, having enough sleep, enjoying downtime in our waking life, and not getting moderate physical exercise a few times per week. If we are not taking care of ourselves, the balance of our hormones and neurotransmitters can be out of alignment, and can therefore impact our ability to be, for example, open to challenge and think creatively. This can also impact our ability to think in the “grey”, as many of us can adopt an “all or nothing” mindset when we are over- or under-stimulated, hungry, or tired.
This emphasises our need for flexibility in the workplace in order to cater to our own needs, which can be made easier in a virtual space in which it is possible to work from home.
In a paper by Zeuge et al, 2020 it has been recommended that teams should have at least one initial face-to-face meeting in order to create a flexible environment. If that is not possible then there must be a period of time dedicated to socialising when the team is initially formed. This socialisation process should however be an ongoing process which continues past the initial forming of the team. This can be made possible through friendly conversation made at the beginning or end of meetings. For example, asking team members how their week was, if they have plans for the weekend, or making conversation about potential challenges they may be experiencing in regard to their work. The leader of the team can encourage discussions of team projects and coordination to be had amongst all members of the team to ensure that everyone has their say. Some of us like to speak, some of us prefer to take time to reflect. Think about how you can make sure to invite all voices to be heard.
Let your presence be known.
In a virtual space it is very important for a leader to create a sense of “presence”. They must create a sense of being there with the team in order to strengthen the bonds and inter-personal relationships in the team. In order to do this, Zeuge et al. 2020 recommend that the leader make themselves available as often as possible to the team during working hours. An effort should be made to communicate promptly and regularly. This can be especially difficult for international teams living in different time zones. Therefore, it is very important that a virtual team leader be aware of the other team members’ schedules.
One of the team leaders’ responsibilities is to create clarity regardless of schedules and time zones. Are you creating all the clarity your team members need currently? Many leaders are so busy thinking about so many things that they are not taking the planning or conversational time to make sure all involved have clarity.
“Leadership is more about clarity than it is about control”.
Who are you as a leader?
Reflecting on the points made regarding; living out company values, flexibility and adaptability, and let your presence be known.
In doing these things you can create a positive, efficient workplace built upon strong, trusting relationships. Learning how to embody a leadership position in a way that positively utilises your influence, and cultivates a culture of trust within a team is an invaluable tool.
For more information on leadership within teams check out some more of our blogs, which you can find here: https://adaptastraining.com/blog/
Written by Sorcha SmithBack to Teams