Just because your team meets deadlines and the company isn’t in danger of closing doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job as a virtual manager. There are plenty of organizations that can operate well without good leadership, but that also often means high turnover rates, increased conflicts, poor collaboration, and great job dissatisfaction. Everybody’s there because of the need for job security and nothing more.
And while it’s perfectly understandable that the pandemic has caught you off guard by forcing you to transition into virtual leadership, there’s no excuse for the state your team has fallen into. You’ll want to bring back their motivation, get them operating as a team, and revive their job satisfaction if you are to push the company past survival mode and actually see progress. That said, the first thing you have to do is to identify where you’re failing as a virtual manager. It’s only by addressing these mistakes that you can set the momentum of change for your team.
You Underestimate Team Bonding
Remote work often reduces relationships to a strictly professional level. This means only work-related topics are ever discussed in meetings and group chats, and all they know about each other is based only on their output. Without team bonding, they might never establish critical traits that all successful virtual teams possess, like compassion and gratitude.
This all-work-no-play approach makes all virtual team training less engrossing, and because they’re not personally engaged with other team members, they might not see the point of it.
A lot of managers make lack of time and resources as an excuse. There’s no extra budget to hire a third party, and it’s really not something your team members are interested in doing. If you do your research, you’ll find that team bonding doesn’t need to be long or complicated.
You start by having two icebreakers before each meeting, and that alone can help your team members warm up to each other. Of course, it’s never true that you lack the time to schedule video calls for team bonding purposes. It’s all about giving your team the right incentive to participate and letting them share a common goal.
You’re Relying Too Little on Emotional Intelligence
Remote work makes people prone to severe stress, loneliness, and feelings of isolation. Many employees have never had to deal with the physical disconnect between the company and their colleagues. Worse, it can be months since you transitioned to remote work, and still, they haven’t developed ways to cope. There’s also the additional stress for them of collaborating with in-office workers who have no idea what they’re going through. It’s your job as a manager to recognize the troubles they face and provide guidance and reprieve when due.
The mentality that you’re all going through the same things won’t cut it. The truth is that when you’re all feeling your way in the dark, it’s emotional intelligence that will help you find each other. Leaders with a high EQ know how to respond to situations appropriately and diffuse conflict triggers. It’s what will help you deal with the nagging need to micromanage and prevent you from ranting when someone makes a mistake.
Emotional intelligence gives you a higher capacity for flexibility and autonomy–two key traits that allow for successful virtual teams. Refusing to let your EQ guide you is like setting your house on fire. It takes only one wrong move to cause the team to crumble for good.
You’re Not Mindful of Employee Boundaries
Boundaries are a critical issue in remote work. Apart from the possible differences in time zone, you also have to overcome certain mentalities. One such thought process that creates tension between employees and their managers is the misunderstanding of the work-from-home setup. Since you’re not asking anyone to come to the office to finish a task, it must be okay to oblige them any time, any day. After all, won’t they simply be booting up their computers and sparing a couple of idle hours at home?
Not really. Employees who have trouble separating their work and home life might not see how this worsens their stress and productivity issues. They’ll feel like they have no choice and must compromise their personal time to meet the company’s needs. Just because you might not feel or hear it doesn’t mean there won’t be any animosity arising out of this.
There’s also the danger of triggering burnout and demotivation among employees. When this happens, productivity and work quality suffer, and it’s more difficult to pull them out of that rut instead of preventing it altogether.
Navigating Virtual Leadership
There’s no one-size-fits-all leadership still, especially in dealing with virtual teams. It’s up to you to determine where you need to improve as a manager and how you’ll serve your team best. Investing in team bonding, relying on emotional intelligence, and respecting employee boundaries is a good start and can help you keep the momentum going for positive change.