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COVID-19 has forced most of us to work virtually and while there are of course plenty of benefits to this, there are also many challenges. Especially when we think about leadership.

Leaders not only set the direction of the organization but they also have to inspire, motivate, and engage their people. Doing this in person isn’t easy, but doing this virtually when you can’t even see your workforce face to face is even more challenging!

I know many leaders out there who are effective when they are able to interact with their teams face to face but in a virtual environment they are…not so great.

I’ve been leading a team of a 12 people for over the past decade and I’ve never met any of them in person!

We are spread around the world in various parts of the United States, Serbia, Macedonia, India, and the Philippines. My team helps me with everything from managing social media to content strategy and planning to audio and video editing, and everything in between.

We work very effectively and it’s because of 6 things we do.

Set up clear guidelines and expectations

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is they don’t have any structure in place for virtual teams. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean your responsibilities vanish, in fact, it’s more crucial that you stay on top of what needs to get done.

Make sure you have the right tools in place

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen leaders try to give virtual inspirational talks to their teams while their video is blurry or their audio sounds like they are under water. Having the right tools in place refers to hardware and software (things like project and task management solutions and collaboration platforms)

Trust your team and give them autonomy and decision making power

In a virtual environment you can’t actually see anyone working and it’s tempting to try to micro-manage. Resist the urge! Treat your people like grown-ups and trust them before assuming that they aren’t going to do their job. If problems arise, then you can step in.

Use video conferencing tools

Sure, it might take a bit more effort to get “camera ready” but it’s worth it. Of course having EVERY meeting with video enabled could be a bit much but seeing your team is important. I find that seeing faces and body language leads to far better communication and collaboration.

Get to know your team as human being not just workers

Today we are having calls and meetings with team members from our bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and closets. We are quite literally letting people into our lives and our homes. It’s a great opportunity to build on that by getting to know your team more as human beings instead of just as workers. What do they care about? What do they value? Do they have kids? Is everyone safe? These are very basic questions to ask.

Do regular check-ins

In an office environment it’s easy to just walk by someone’s desk to ask a question or to have a quick brainstorming sessions. This is one huge aspect of work that a virtual environment can simply not replicate… the serendipitous or random conversation. However having regular check-ins can help. Just casual messages like “Hey can I help with you anything?” or “How are you doing today?” can do wonders.

If you practice these 6 tips then I can promise you will be far more effective at leading a remote team. It’s what I’ve been doing for over a decade now.

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1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.

2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.

3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here.

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