Enabling new ways of working: effective team leadership in a virtual space.

Working from Home

How quickly has your team had to change how it works? Why is being agile and adaptable so much easier when we have good relationships and effective communication?  

For many teams, working remotely has been something that a few people do some of the time. Almost overnight whole teams are dealing with the practical and emotional aspects of   working in an environment that was never designed with work in mind.  Relationships between leaders, teams and clients are on a new virtual footing.  Yet, managed well, there seem to be many positives emerging from this new way of working.  

With a schedule of short regular and purposeful virtual meetings throughout the week, team members can be fully involved in a shared vision and purpose.   

As a leader, be:  

  • Committed to listen and respond to your team as you develop this new way of working, prepared to adjust the pace.  
  • Encourage individuals to observe what they perceive as good practice in other teams and how others may have adapted.   
  • Communicate individually with your team members to check how they are coping in their own situation and support them to resolve issues.   
  • Inspire and encourage your team to become innovative and creative in being part of the solution.  
  • Think and reflect critically and be prepared to change your mind and approach.  

Essentially this enables you to build trust. Trust is key.  Whether you take Kotter’s principles for change or Lencioni’s recipe to prevent a dysfunctional team, all routes start here.  A lack of trust equates to a lack of commitment. Foster and establish trust in the process as well as in the people.  

Business needs to be alive to a context of continual change, but individuals don’t always thrive when this happens very quickly. Adjusting quickly to COVID 19 has accelerated modernisation and improvement that may have happened anyway over a longer period of time. In a less agile organisation the impact is likely to be greater on everyone. 

Building trust dispels fear, the most significant reason for people to resist change.  According to James Bailey, Professor of Psychology, fear of failure, embarrassment and loss of earnings or identity are linked to a heightened awareness of our own mortality. It’s no surprise then how much resistance someone might put up in the face of uncertainty.  

Rise to the challenge to get a sense of how the team is feeling.  One CEO of a small but geographically widely spread company told me that for the first time she has been able to bring the whole team together on an equal platform.  Meetings are short and clear in terms of purpose. Informal social events led by the team have also been a success, such as scavenger hunts, chats over coffee.  Relationships have strengthened as a result, with staff reporting a reduction in their feeling of isolation. 

The solution is there in the team.  Communicate a clear vision and invest time in your team.  Trust them to adapt to new ways of working and be available to support where needed.  Be prepared to act on decisions, share results and above all engage everyone in positive learning. 

Guest Blog: Dr Amanda Smith

This blog is part of the Change Maker Blog series. The Change Maker programme is a series of blogs, podcasts and virtual learning sessions to help people and organisations to navigate through a time of unprecedented change. To find out how the Change Maker programme can help re-engage your teams, start the conversation with us or click here to find out more.