The 5 Biggest Challenges of Leading a Virtual Team | Paradigm Learning

The 5 Biggest Challenges of Leading a Virtual Team

Posted by Sara Wolski on May 01, 2020

Leading a virtual team can be difficult at the best of times. When forced to make this transition with little to no training or preparation, the difficulty and associated challenges are compounded.

Below we’ll cover five of the biggest challenges associated with leading a virtual team and how to overcome them.

1. Ineffective (or not enough) communication

Communication needs differ when addressing people in person versus through remote technology. Using video when possible can help, as can setting meeting expectations ahead of time (let people know what to prepare and that they’ll be called on to participate). When communicating, be succinct and follow up with an email.

2. Lack of team cohesion

Culture can still happen in virtual settings as much as physical ones. As a leader, encourage team building like one team social call a week to keep cohesion strong. Lead with transparency and encourage your team members to do the same when working together on projects. Check-in on team members individually to monitor engagement, be accessible to them, and be tuned into how they’re feeling and what they’re working through.

3. Lack of accountability

Setting clear goals as a manager is vital when leading teams virtually. Check for understanding and follow up meetings with an email summary outlining agreed-upon next steps and responsibilities. Prevent the possibility of missed deadlines or leaving projects hanging before that happens.

4. Viewing roadblocks or challenges as insurmountable.

Everyone will have them at some point (distractions, tech issues, childcare challenges, etc.). Make a plan ahead of time through an open discussion with your team and work through it with compassion.

5. Micromanaging from a distance.

Even if you’re not in the same physical space, it can be easy to micromanage - from a distance. Trust your team. Use frequent communication, discussion of goals and plans, and follow-ups to stay in tune with their focus, and trust that they’re doing what they need to do.

Another way to view these challenges is by turning them into opportunities to follow these best practices:

  • Set at rhythm for effective communication
  • Build team cohesion with a common goal/focus,
  • Create structure with a culture of accountability (regularly discuss goals, follow up after meetings with a summary and next steps outlined, hold each other accountable, delegate sub-leaders in the group (team leads or project leads on certain assignments)
  • Address roadblocks or challenges together and with compassion.
  • Trust your team

If you need more resources or a forum for leaders of virtual teams to hone their skills, contact us today for more information. We’re here to help.

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