Leading Virtual Teams: Strengthening Your Relationships

April 2020 | By ALULA

In these uncertain times, your team members will have deep-seated concerns about their health, their families, and job security. It is critical that you recognize the value they bring to the continuity of your operations and to your organization’s culture. How you relate to your team during this worldwide pandemic will have lasting consequences.

leading-virtual-teams-strengthening-your-relationships-alulaIt is critical to maintain solid relationships that demonstrate trust and respect, inspire, show empathy, and create positive accountability. Your primary role as a leader in these times is to ensure that people continue to feel valued, heard, and connected.

Here are several tactics that will clearly demonstrate how you are supportive of your people’s situations during this time. 

  • First, seek to understand the source of an individual’s concerns or fears.
    Ask about their frame of mind, how they are coping emotionally with the situation, and show concern about the physical well-being of their family and friends. It is also important to remember that each person in your organization is dealing with a unique set of circumstances. A one-size-fits-all show of empathy will not suffice.

  • Recognize that many of your people are now working remotely for the first time.
    This change of scenery will cause distractions, especially when they are early in the transition. If they are parents, anticipate that many are figuring out how to home school their kids. Others are caring for sick loved ones. Understand that it will take your people some time to learn to compartmentalize these new responsibilities to focus on work.

  • Actively demonstrate trust and respect, and monitor yourself to make certain you are exhibiting these traits.
    Think about how your actions are perceived from your team’s perspective. Visual cues, and how you typically answer and react to questions in an in-person setting, may not translate over the phone or a video setting. (Tip: record video of yourself during a practice call, and then view it for any traits you might want to adjust.)

  • Shorten meeting agendas.
    This is critical in the early days of the work-from-home transition. Your people will need extra time to wrestle with technology. Set aside the first agenda item for a personal discussion to show you empathize with their situation. Don’t try to fit too much into a meeting.

  • Have meetings with fewer people.
    This may mean you have to conduct the same meeting twice. But to get more engagement from everyone on a call, smaller team meetings will be important. More people will be able to contribute, and fewer will get lost or distracted on other tasks.

  • Most importantly, create a feedback loop.
    Have a team of trusted individuals who you know will give you honest, reflective, constructive feedback on how people view your handling of the situation.

Your actions today will determine your organization’s trajectory once the crisis subsides. If people feel that their concerns were ignored or neglected, they will disengage when they return—and consequently you will spend precious time repairing those relationships when we come out on the other side.

But if people feel that you have treated them with respect and an understanding of their concerns, they will return ready to re-engage, with even more dedication to their jobs and the organization. Your actions today will lay the foundation for the evolving organizational culture of tomorrow.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway 


Topics: Communicating with Teams, Working Remote, Leading Remote Teams, Work from Home, Managing Remotely


Written by ALULA