Special circumstances also need special measures – this sentence applies more than ever with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. This relates above all to the management of virtual teams within companies, because especially because of the increased demand by the government to let their own employees work as much as possible from the home office, team leaders have to adapt to completely new circumstances and changed Set requirements.

In this article, I would like to explain in more detail what is important here and which factors play an essential role. All information reflects a Summary out Chapter 5 of my book Virtual teams and home office from Springer Verlag contrary.

Leadership for virtual teams on a personal level

While long catchphrases such as “command” and “control” played an essential role in the management style, the type of leadership has now increasingly developed in the direction of humanity and authenticity. This means that leadership is now increasingly against the background of personal attitudes, one’s own set of values and the associated behavior.

But how exactly can good leadership be built on these pillars in a stable manner?

The answer to this lies in various approaches. On the one hand, every leader has to deal with the questions: “How do I want to be?” and “How do I want to be perceived?” These are the basic ideas that every leadership style should build on. On the other hand, it is ultimately a matter of adapting one’s own actions to those attitudes.

It is important to find a certain balance, because good leadership is now understood as a mix of “old” and “new” values and should (as shown in Fig. 1) be in harmony with one another.

Fig. 1: Mission statement of a manager, Source: Lindner (2020)

In addition, the executives questioned in my book also emphasized the following recommendations for promising leadership:

• 1. Team building: Real meetings for creating virtual teams

• 2. Concrete goals: Goal management as a control aid

• 3. Clear distribution of roles: Working according to the pull principle to relieve the manager

4th Trust employees: The scope of delegated work packages increases linearly to the trust in the work performance of the employee

• 5. Base: Mistakes and bad working days are seen as part of a construct and are allowed.

• 6. Primary characteristics: Leadership at eye level, trust in employees,

• 7. Secondary characteristics: Real-time feedback, exemplifying agility, participation, motivation to change

• 8th. New competencies: Anticipate new trends, use agile methods and new work concepts, evaluate employee motivation and technologies.

• 9. Learning by doing: Adapt the leadership model to everyday work

Leadership For virtual teams on a technological level

With virtual leadership, however, it is not just a matter of dealing with employees, but also of making the necessary resources available for a functioning work rhythm. This applies in particular to ensuring that tasks are completed within a virtual room, because the right software tools are required for this. Only in this way can work performances be presented uniformly and transparently. And especially due to the spatial distance that working in virtual teams inevitably entails, the distribution of tasks and roles as well as the processing status of individual tasks and projects can no longer be communicated as casually as at the office level.

But even further: I have summarized in the following graphic (Fig. 2) which software, on the recommendation of the managers questioned, for which areas of activity are most useful and helpful:

Fig. 2: Software for task distribution in virtual teams, Source: Lindner (2020)

The above table describes the satisfaction of the manager for each software mentioned, as well as a suggestion for the type of leadership style (procedure) and the task size that have resulted in the greatest success in the context of the use of the respective software.

Change management recommendations

Software tools thus form a kind of information node that can be set individually by the team leader. As a result, for example, rights and processes can be clearly defined and specified and access can be explicitly permitted or denied to certain employees. This has a clear advantage in terms of clarity, transparency and the tracking of work packages and task blocks and makes it much easier for the manager to control from a physical distance.

But not every employee will react to these changes with euphoria. Instead, many members of virtual teams undergo the following typical scheme:

1st phase: shock – New circumstances result in fear of change.

2nd phase: rejection – general rejection and negative attitudes triggered by fear.

3rd phase: Rational insight – Rational examination of the knowledge that the change cannot be circumvented.

4th phase: emotional insight – Familiarize yourself with the change and achieve the actual turning point (further support from the manager required).

5th phase: learning – Complete acceptance of the change and in-depth discussion and testing of the new measures.

6th phase: knowledge – Adoption of the changed measures into everyday work.

7th phase: integration – Self-evident and practiced handling of the new applications.

Conclusion

The path to becoming a good (virtual) manager inevitably involves dealing with one’s own values, ideas and behavior. On the one hand, as a manager, you have to deal intensively with the nature of your leadership and derive the characteristics that suit your team from it. On the other hand, the next step requires implementation, but also the use of the right tools and tools, because especially in the area of virtual teams, these differ enormously from those that you use in a face-to-face team.

Never forget that a lot of things that, as already mentioned, are often incidentally communicated at the office level, are lost in the virtual space. Furthermore, structure and precise instructions are required here so that you can pull together with your team. One thing is certain: the way there is not easy, but in line with the executives surveyed, I can assure you: It will be worth it!

Tip: Read my new book: Virtual Teams & Home Office at Springer Gabler or book me for a talk.

Lindner, D. (2020) – Virtual Teams and Home Office – Guide to Technology, Working Methods and Leadership. Springer Verlag


Image-Source Titlepicture: Fotolia.de 2016 – buyed License

Dr. Dominic Lindner
Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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