Virtual Management Best Practices

Communication:

  • Communicate with your virtual team more than you do with your on-site teams.
    • Schedule our make routine check-ins a norm. Spontaneous contacts are important as well
  • Be very specific when communicating virtually. Build in steps to check for understanding.
    • Make sure expectations are
    • Calling them, emailing and instant messaging them at least once every day or two.
  • Steady contact will open stronger awareness all around. Problems that surface early along the way may be solved immediately without turning into a major dilemma in the future.
  • Leverage two-way dialogue. Take the position of seeking to understand before giving direction.  Assume nothing.
  • Integrate coaching into conversations whenever possible. Look for those “teachable moments” just like you do in the hall with other employees.
  • Virtual managers should have weekly 1x1s with team leaders versus monthly

Medias:

  • The best option for virtual communication continues to be phone calls.
  • Least desired and creates interpretation is email communications.
    • While global discussions are needed to maintain consistency, never use email to provide feedback – even if constructive. Have a phone call so that you can ensure you are both on the same page – check for understanding
    • Following up via email is a great way to reinforce a previous conversation/meeting and restate expectations
  • Instant messaging
    • Use for brief questions
    • Do not use as an alternative to checking in – pick up the phone
    • For quick connections, it is great to use chat to see if they have time to talk – if so then pick up the phone and talk. If not, schedule the talk for a later date based on your calendar openings.  Shows your respect their time, and then demonstrate the desired behavior.
    • Watch for clues – if your chat is getting lengthy and questions keep appearing – pick up the phone – you need a conversation
    • a virtual meeting leveraging Skype can be very useful. You can share relevant documents and discuss and question understanding versus just using teleconference.
    • Look for opportunities to do video chats with the rollout of Microsoft Office 360
  • Involve your leaders in what their preference is, but don’t lose site that you own the oversight you are establishing. Being flexible is important, but it does not mean you follow versus lead.
  • Assume nothing. Even if you demonstrate the behaviors you would like to see in turn; you may need to state the expectations as well as explain.

Set Deadlines/Establish ground rules:

  • Make sure your expectations are clear.
    • Virtual teams need more communication, more protocol and more clarity around tasks. Be clear about expectations for deadlines, resolution of issues, availability, and even discussions they share.
    • Gain their feedback and buy-in. How do your employees feel about the expectations?  Do they have other ideas to help shape or change?
    • Institute the “no surprises” rule. Two-way.  Keep them informed and suggest they loop you as well and issues happen.
  • Know what hours your leaders are working, don’t leave it up to them to decide. Look at the business needs and their needs and create a set schedule.  Be flexible to changing needs, but reiterate the purpose of having proper coverage.  Assume nothing.
  • Help your virtual employees and you by prioritizing along with setting deadlines. Hand in hand.
    • If projects have a deadline longer than a week, be sure to have weekly check-ins to ensure the project is on track

Get Personal/Look for opportunities to socialize:

  • One of the fastest ways to build trust with your team is to get to know them personally.
    • Look for items on their desk – photos of family and pets to start conversations
    • Have separate 1×1 calls just to connect personally – no business topics. (i.e., you mentioned yesterday that you were having a family event last night – how did it go?)
  • When possible face to face, plan a social activity after business hours. Schedule an extended lunch just to connect on a personal level versus professional.
  • Watch for clues on your employee’s

Face to Face meetings:

  • Plan your trips and time with purpose.
    • Have planned topics and pre-scheduled meetings. Solicit questions to review with your leaders/teams in advance.
    • Select a week where you can clear your schedule – just as you would vacation time.
    • Your focus should be on the virtual team, and your on-site teams should be informed of that, so they understand. You will find your on-site teams will do just fine.
  • Attend staff stand up meetings. Conduct the team meeting when on site.  Conduct skip level meetings if appropriate
  • Consider sitting in plain view versus closed in a larger office
  • Have followed up topics such as, reviewing performance discussions and progress on specific team members
  • Have leaders share what a typical is is like for them. It is an excellent opportunity to coach and share best practices.  You see so much more when you observe versus talking on the phone.  If you have specific expectations of tasks/functions they need to do each day, this is a good way to validate.

Assume nothing:

  • Communication among virtual teams is challenging because you do not have the benefit of reading facial expressions, body language or other social cues.
    • Be very specific with requests. Check for understanding.  Follow up.
  • Expect a few bumps along the way. Practice makes perfect.
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