In my previous posts on leading virtually, I wrote about what it takes to lead a virtual team – separated across geographies, cultures, and even time zones. To recap, leaders must overcome several challenges, including understanding how to address the diversity of a virtual workforce while also recognizing that virtual leadership requires far more than mastering a few technological tools or platforms.
In order to build a productive virtual workforce, leaders can use a simple framework that provides a focus on key principles. You might think of this model as representing a Yin and Yang balance for virtual leadership.
Two key elements define the first level: cohesion and commitment.
Effective virtual leaders build awareness that, despite team members being separated by distance, they must be united in focus, goals and collaboration. Specifically, leaders can help team members understand that the work they do leads to meaningful outcomes. Leaders should also think of ways to build clear communication and encourage both inclusion and responsibility.
While group cohesion is vital, it’s also imperative that individual team members build a sense of commitment to the mission of the team and to the broader strategic goals of the organization. To build this individual commitment, leaders should provide opportunities for virtual team member success by communicating often with team members, while encouraging individual action and ownership.
What can leaders do to help build both group cohesion and individual commitment?
Leaders should focus on helping all team members, regardless of their location, to feel both satisfied and valued on three levels:
- Competence (team members should feel valued for their knowledge and skill)
- Relatedness (they should feel fulfilled when collaborating with co-workers, and valued for this)
- Autonomy (team members should be encouraged to exercise individual discretion to achieve business goals).
If a leader can create an environment that helps team members feel valued for these traits, it increases the likelihood that the virtual team will build success.
It really is a balancing act, and striking that perfect balance builds a team that works harmoniously, which means productivity and ultimately, success for the organization.
Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal in Tampa, Florida