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5 Essential virtual leadership skills that create a thriving remote culture

Businesses all around the world were gradually adapting to the rapid pace of digital transformation.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak drove the final nail in the coffin. It has been established that the disruptions will have long-term effects on the psychology and dynamics of traditional workplaces. A staggering 54% of businesses believe that the aftershocks of the global pandemic will continue through 2020. So, it is high time for companies to embrace the remote work model.

As a result, there is a growing need for leading the change in the virtual work environment. Virtual leadership can help foster a solid work culture that will set your business on track for success!

What is Virtual Leadership?

As the name indicates, virtual leaders are in charge of virtual teams. A virtual team comprises of professionals operating from different physical locations.

A virtual leader carries out all the roles and responsibilities of a traditional leader. Hence, virtual leadership plays an instrumental role in determining the success of any project.

The Rise of Virtual Leaders

The demand for virtual leadership is not a new concept. Studies and reports dating back to 2009 have highlighted how remote teams can outperform on-site employees in productivity and task management, provided that they are under stable virtual leadership. According to Gartner, the number of remote employees rose by 4% from 2012 to 2016. Nearly 43% of this overall workforce operate remotely in the US alone! While the development was slow yet sustained, companies faced challenges in the form of trust deficit, unmet expectations, work stereotypes, and technological limitations.

As technology started to catch up with the industry demands, there was a proportional growth in the demand for virtual leadership. It emerged as a silver bullet that helped overcome these obstacles. Virtual leaders emphasized communication and collaboration to nurture trust. Similarly, they assigned specific roles to outline a defined work structure, which boosted employee productivity while meeting business objectives. Finally, they helped with the integration of technology through collaboration software for efficient task management and disposal.

The imminent maturation of virtual leadership ushered in the age of remote working and virtual teams, making it the new normal.

5 Essential Virtual Team Leadership Skills

Now that we understand the crucial role of virtual leadership, it is time to review the qualities and characteristics to emerge as a successful virtual leader.

Here are five crucial skills that every virtual leader should hone for efficient task management:

  1. Communication

Remote interactions are robbed of the personal touch that comes with one-on-one conversations. Resultantly, there is a higher scope of missing out critical details.

Virtual leaders must convey instructions, feedback, and guidelines clearly and concisely. Any ambiguity will contribute to confusion.

Set aside an appropriate frequency for conducting structured meetings, while also leaving room for impromptu catch-ups. Communicate consistently with your virtual teams and the team members.

The trick is to strike the perfect balance. If you check in too often, you may make the employees feel like they are being micromanaged. On the other hand, hold meetings too infrequently, and your employees will slip off the routine.

Setting up channels for synchronous and asynchronous communication will help teams even if they operate in different time zones. Incentivize collaboration, and your project will be rewarded accordingly.

Do not limit the conversations to mere “work stuff” and encourage employees to replicate the traditional “water cooler.” In this way, you will be adding to the work culture.

   2. Empathy

For several organizations, adapting to the remote working model has been tough. Naturally, there will be a few employees that may struggle with the technological aspect. Similarly, isolation, lockdowns, and quarantine may also take a toll on your employees’ emotional and mental well-being. On the other hand, you will have to deal with employees who cannot maintain the work-life balance.

An ideal virtual leader can identify such issues through social cues, even without learning about them explicitly. It could be in the form of loss in employee productivity, change in work behavior, and other indicators. Virtual leaders must locate these setbacks by tapping into their social awareness and relationship-building skills and mitigate the risks through proactive remedial measures.

Simple, empathy-driven decisions such as getting in a VC with the troubled employee or giving them some timeout to recover from burnout can help your team members.

  1. Transparency

Information silos will slow down your team’s productivity. For this reason, you must maintain cultural transparency in all your business operations. Whether it is access to the company database or assigning tasks to a team – virtual leaders incorporate transparency everywhere.

Fortunately, you can bank on several tools and software that make use of technology to add this layer of transparency. At the same time, constant communication also lays the foundation for transparent operations.

Maintaining transparency will help with employee engagement and will also hold them accountable for their work. Eventually, it will contribute to social cohesion that will glue your virtual teams together.

Read: Coming Back To Work: Productivity Lessons We Will Carry Back Post Lockdown.

  1. Trust

Cultivating trust in a virtual environment is one of the major challenges of virtual leadership. Make your team members an integral part of the decision-making process and keep them in the loop for updates.

At the same time, instill the belief that you trust your employees to carry out their tasks even if they do not have a boss hovering over your shoulders. Rather than stressing on the number of hours your team members put in, shift the focus to the overall output and impact. Once again, if you notice a dip in productivity, feel free to discuss the issue sympathetically.

  1. Inclusion

Virtual leaders will have to be considerate of all team members. As stated before, involve your team members at every stage of the decision-making process. Virtual leaders must consider the team as an integral part of the project, right from planning to execution.

On an individual level, you can pair your experienced employees with the freshers to make the freshers feel included in all the business transactions. It helps overcome the common issues that newbies face during the onboarding stage.

Through this two-pronged approach, you can be sure that you are including and empowering everyone.

The Final Word

To sum it up, virtual leadership is the life and blood of a remote system.

Virtual leaders play a critical role in fostering trust, boosting employee productivity, encouraging open communication and collaboration, outlining goals and procedural guidelines, and keeping the team morale high. To meet these goals, virtual leaders tap into an array of collaboration software and tools that grant seamlessness even in remote work environments.

Having a trusted and reliable virtual leader in your team can boost your company’s chances of success!

Click HERE to explore Zippi to help boost your organization’s productivity.

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Remote Collaboration with Zippi

Over the past few years, remote collaboration opportunities have found their way in various industries. While some of the more lucrative jobs had the ‘work-from-anywhere’ scheme for their employees from the very beginning, the pandemic of 2019, COVID-19, turned out to be a harbinger for the WFH Revolution, transforming the add-on into a necessity.

But are we ready? 

Spoiler alert: Yes, we are.

The Challenges of Alternative Workspaces 

A little over a couple of decades ago, AT&T experimented. On the fateful day of September 20, 1994, about 32,000 of its employees sat back at home and commuted to work through telecommunication.

Today, AT&T is a world leader in Virtual Offices and Alternative Workspaces. But this can’t be said for all the other organizations that failed to prepare for a situation.

The common challenges faced by these companies include:

  1. The Industrial Culture 

Our traditional organizational structure is designed for intensive face-to-face interactions. Remote collaboration is a different ballgame altogether. Employees tend to lose a sense of common identity and the touch of company culture. Peer-influence vanishes, and the procrastinating workers eventually end up with low morale and connection.

  1. Communication Barriers in Team Collaboration 

Asking for updates and general information from colleagues in offices is pretty straightforward — everyone is just a few physical steps away. But collaboration is a real challenge when every team member works remotely. The transparency within the team falls steeply. This leads to confusion and conflict among the team members.

  1. Linking Tasks with Productivity 

The effects of remote work from home have been discussed extensively, and many say that it may not be a viable option in the long run in terms of the employees’ morale and productivity. This is all the more challenging for big organizations as they are bound with pre-set processes even though investing in task trackers or other productivity tools to boost their organization’s yearly yield.

  1. Investment in Tools & Training 

Many companies that didn’t take their infrastructure online (cloud-based) faced a lot of trouble when they were asked to continue their operations remotely. Investing in the right kind of technology was the biggest challenge for almost every company in today’s time.

How Zippi Can Make A Difference 

Zippi by PeopleStrong is the most competitive business collaboration software an organization can hope to find. Used by more than 350,000 people all over the world, the service supports over 250 companies in their revenue growth.

Download Case Study: How Chola Leveraged Zippi during Lockdown by Agile Collaboration

  1. Fosters Workplace Communications

Clear communication between the team members is the most fundamental requirement for a collaborative work environment. Irregularities in approach within an organization can cause unforeseen problems for the company. With Zippi, you can use the pre-designed employee-groups for all your divisions to help employees connect better. There are options to create smaller squads that can solve the whole communication problem for your company with agility.

  1. Goal-Oriented Approach 

As companies shift their approach more towards the output without caring much about the process, it’s the perfect opportunity for companies to grant their employees a certain degree of freedom. With Zippi, organizations will never drift from their goals as the employees will be alerted about their deadlines and objectives regularly.

  1. Digital Collaborative Tool 

If your work requires people with different skill-sets to work together, Zippi can help you achieve that with agility, while keeping the company culture in mind. With intuitive functionalities such as group assignments and threaded conversations, Zippi is easily the best task management software out there.

  1. Bridging the Gap Between Planning & Execution 

Through Zippi, the C-Suite, the managers, the workers — all of them can use and work on a common platform, bridging the gap between planning and hands-on execution of the tasks.

Moreover, features such as appreciations and polls acting as reinforcements ensure that all the employees remain connected and engaged even if they’re miles apart.

  1. AI-driven Collaboration

Apart from offering task management and collaboration solutions, Zippi diligently makes use of Artificial Intelligence through our inhouse Chatbot – Jinie that answers all the employee queries, nudges about your pending tasks, periodical reminders on unread emails, integrate with existing HR systems and much more

Round-Up

Ever since the industrial revolution, work became more and more demanding as companies shifted their approach to becoming actively goal-driven. It became all the more demanding when we started working remotely.

Today, companies come up with better and more innovative solutions for remote collaboration; so that there’s a fire to showcase their output. This has led them to neglect the process and become more goal-oriented. In today’s uncertain times, companies demand an integrated, connected, and collaborative systems to drive productivity across the organization.

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