Five Techniques to keep your Virtual Team Engaged

While some staff are starting to return to the office, many organisations such as tech giants Google and Facebook are allowing their staff to work from home until the end of the year. Others such as Goldman Sachs may allow 50% of their staff to work from home forever! But how do you keep teams engaged if they are never physically together?

For managers or small business owners, it can be a real challenge to keep virtual teams engaged, especially if you are new to managing remote workers.

This article will give you five tips to keep your virtual team engaged.

Out of working hours are out of bounds!

Sometimes it’s necessary to work long or unsociable hours when there’s an increase in demand or a huge deadline looming. But remember that balance is important, and usually teams can actually be more productive if they stick to sensible working hours.

Where possible try not to send your team e-mails at the weekend or very late at night. Doing this sends the expectation that you want them to also work at the weekends or late into the evenings, and can lead to guilt, frustration and burn-out.

There may be a valid reason why you can’t contact your team members during working hours, but be sure to put yourself in their shoes and try to be fair. We all deserve a weekend!

Organise regular meetings

Agreed, some meetings can be a waste of time and there’s no point having a meeting for the sake of it. However, to keep your virtual team engaged at minimum a weekly meeting is essential. This keeps everyone is on the same page and held accountable to their tasks and projects.

Woman Using Silver Laptop

Regular meetings also help to build personal connections amongst colleagues, which is so important for team morale, motivation and engagement.

Communicate updates regularly

When working from home some team members can feel isolated, like they’re not in the loop or even really part of the company. Therefore, regular and clear communication from the manager and leadership is essential. Think about the balance between using e-mail, other tools such as MS Teams or Slack and also video or conference calls.

Ask open questions

When communicating with your team members try to ask more open questions, which facilitate good communication, instead of closed questions, which can close communication doors quickly.

Open questions are a great way to get people to talk more about how they are feeling and their emotions. Most people like to be listened to. If you can listen to your virtual team members concerns and demonstrate genuine empathy, it will help you to build and maintain a strong connection with them and improve their engagement level.

Focus on productivity, not hours worked

Some of your staff may work traditional hours, whereas others may prefer to work very early morning and/or late at night. Some night owls even work their best at 2 in the morning!

Mug, Watch, and Planner Book on Brown Wooden Surface

Don’t worry if your staff are not always immediately available, try to focus on what they manage to achieve. Doing this will help you avoid micro-management, demonstrates trust and can actually improve overall productivity and performance.

Summary

It certainly takes a different skillset, and a lot of trust, to build a super-engaged and motivated virtual team. But with just a few tweaks to your management style and approach to communication, you will see huge rewards in all areas of your team’s work.

We believe that engagement is such an important factor in team performance we have a dedicated training focusing on even more techniques for keeping virtual teams engaged.

 

Delegate More Effectively with the 6 Levels of Delegation

Delegation: dishing out the jobs, assigning people to tasks, entrusting a task to someone else for which you remain accountable. If done regularly and correctly, delegation can be a beneficial process for all concerned. A manager can empower their team, make them feel trusted and valued, and free up their own time to get other jobs done.

But how do you delegate successfully?

When you delegate, try to follow this managerial motto: Eyes on, hands off! What does that mean? Delegate tasks and then just monitor and observe (eyes on), whilst trying not to interfere and just let them get on with it (hands off). Being eyes on tells you when you need to be more hands on, e.g. if you observe someone really struggling, you could offer your assistance.

With some employees, you’ll need to be more hands on, with others you can be more hands off. It’s what we call situational leadership, and the only golden rule is: it depends! A manager needs to be adaptable and flexible, and often the big question is: how much are you prepared to let go?

If we apply this to the delegation process, we can identify a number of levels:

  1. Do what I tell you: a highly directive style, totally hands on, and can be perceived as an aggressive approach. It shouldn’t, and can be done in a polite and respectful way, but it is the one-way flow of instruction, from manager to employee. You say it and they do it, no buts. It is the right style to use in certain situations, e.g. in a crisis or emergency when swift decisive action is needed, or when the deadline is imminent and there’s no time for a discussion. Sometimes also with new starters who know nothing about the job and need instruction, or when you’ve tried every other approach and nothing has worked!
  2. Have a look and tell me what you think. Then I’ll decide: now we’re involving the team more, asking for their thoughts regarding getting the job done. The manager is letting go a bit, but still has the power and will make the final decision about task completion.
  3. Give me recommendations, pros and cons. I’ll let you know the best way forward: the manager is letting go even more, requesting greater input from the team, but is still heavily involved when deciding how the job gets done.
  4. Decide yourself, but wait for my approval: the manager is getting more and more hands off, allowing the team members to make their own decisions about doing the job. However, they still need to check with the boss before proceeding.
  5. Decide and take action. Let me know what you did: a real shift in delegation style here. The team can make their own decisions and get the job done. The manager is no longer consulted beforehand, instead they are informed afterwards.
  6. Decide and take action. There’s no need to check with me: the team is now totally empowered and the manager is completely hands off! Not many managers are happy delegating at level 6! However, if you have a high performing team, who are self-sufficient, autonomous and trustworthy, then why wouldn’t you operate at this level?

Conclusion

When deciding how to delegate, all of the above levels are available to you. Any of the levels 1 to 6 could be the right approach for the best outcome. Consider the situation and the type of job (complex or very straightforward?), who is available to take it on (new starter or very experienced?) and the time available (the deadline is in 5 minutes, or 5 hours, or 5 weeks?) and then make an informed decision.

That way, if anyone ever questions your delegation style, you can justify it with solid reasoning. Happy delegating!

To learn more about delegation take a look at our Introduction to Management course, where we cover the fundamentals of good delegation alongside lots of other great management skills like giving feedback and team building.