Published - November/December 2021 Edition of BC Advantage Magazine

Managing Virtual Teams
By Dave Jakielo

It is hard to believe, but at the time of printing this article, it has been over 600 days since the country shut down for the first time. In March of 2020, COVID-19 changed our business lives forever. The last live seminar I gave was in Las Vegas in February 2020, and since then, it's been the world of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and other similar platforms.

Not only have most in-person conferences been postponed or cancelled, but who would have ever thought that (in cases where it is possible), most of our team members would be working from home?

The brick-and-mortar offices we rented, furnished, decorated, and were so proud of had their lights turned out in March 2020, and most still haven't come back to full capacity-and many never will.

Some of my clients who are insisting that their employees return to the office are experiencing a new type of attrition, called: "This other company is allowing me to work from home indefinitely, so I'm out of here."

One thing we never predicted was that our management team would need a crash course in "How to Effectively and Efficiently Manage a Virtual Team." The need for this skill is not going to go away any time soon. As variants of the virus continue to wreak havoc worldwide, getting our office back to 100 percent capacity is just a pipedream for now.

Therefore, it is imperative that we ensure our managers are instructed in how to manage effectively, even when their team members are scattered across the city, state, or country.

There have been unforeseen benefits adapting to this new work environment, such as:

  • Many people are more effective and efficient while working from home.
  • People don't waste time and have the pressure of commuting to and from the office.
  • You can now recruit and hire talent regardless of where they are located. We are no longer selecting from a pool of candidates that live within driving distance.
  • You can drastically reduce your office expenses by downsizing your square footage.
  • There has been a significant decline in usage of sick days and absenteeism due to weather.

However, if working from home is to be successful, there are things you must do to ensure both you and your team members are remaining productive, including the following:

  • You must create an environment of accountability and provide everyone with a task list of exactly what is expected to be completed daily, weekly, monthly, and as needed. Ambiguity is the enemy.
  • It's important to spell out expected goals and the timelines for achieving the assigned goals. Establishing priorities together is much more effective than if you just assign them. When a team member is involved in setting their goals, there is an exponential increase in the likelihood they will hit their targets.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as over communication. When we don't see people in person on a regular basis, there is a tendency for the adage "out of sight, out of mind" to come into play. Set up regular meetings with each team member, even if it is only 5 to 10 minutes a day.
  • Not only is communication about what is happening important, but so is feedback, both positive and negative attending an employee's performance. And remember that communication is a two-way street; you must also be a great listener.
  • Lastly and most importantly, you must "Inspect what you expect." It is futile if you set goals and objectives, but never hold anyone accountable or offer to finish the project yourself if they miss a deadline. Some people love it when they have a boss who will do their job for them.

Keep in mind that working from home is not for everyone; some people don't have the self-discipline to be successful, and you surely don't have time to micromanage someone who is working remotely. Unfortunately, you may have to make some changes on your team.

It's important to remember that if you are having trouble getting productivity out of someone working at home, you would probably have trouble getting productivity out of that person in the office, too. They are usually the one who spends most of their day interrupting and disrupting other team members.

While we may not like working in this new environment, I believe we will never get back to the way it was, and there will always be some portion of our team working from home part or full time-and some of them may even be wearing pants!

Dave Jakielo is an International Speaker, Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author, and is president of Seminars & Consulting. Dave is past president of Healthcare Business and Management Association and the National Speakers Association Pittsburgh Chapter. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412-921-0976.

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