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11 Leadership mistakes to avoid when managing a virtual team

Cubo writersOct 11, 2022

Working remotely is one of the biggest perks of employing top talent. However, the offering of the option to work remotely is not enough to retain top talent and keep your team happy long term. If you seek to build a successful virtual team for the future, you must manage them effectively.

You might be asking yourself, "But how do I manage a virtual team?" or "What mistakes should I avoid when managing a virtual team?" Here we will discuss the everyday challenges of managing virtual employees and some of the most common mistakes managers make along the way.

Not facilitating open conversations

Employees having discussionPhysical workspaces allow you to have random encounters with your team. Throughout the day, there are opportunities for spontaneous conversation. When there is a lull in your day, you can briefly stop by someone's cubicle to ask about their weekend. It is common to catch up on a coworker's day over lunch.

These informal conversations might seem unimportant, but the reality is these interactions are what bring your team together. Unfortunately, these opportunities are not always available for remote or distributed groups.

It's not like you can walk into someone's office when they are working hundreds of miles away.

‍However, just because those conversations don't happen naturally in remote teams doesn't mean they're not just as important—and part of effectively leading remote teams is creating space for them to happen.

‍As a manager, you must develop an environment that fosters conversation with and within your virtual team. Check in with your virtual team members at the beginning of every one-on-one meeting and ask how things are going, professionally and personally.

‍Schedule an end-of-the-week "virtual happy hour" where the only agenda item is to hop on video. Therefore your team can catch up with the realities others are facing. Sometimes, team member needs the opportunity to get something off their chest to help increase their productivity.

Maintaining strict digital communication

When organizing virtual teams, keeping all of your communications digital can be comfortable. But while digital communication tools provide your team with more convenience, maintaining things rigidly digital doesn't necessarily push your communications in the right direction.

If success for your virtual team is your ultimate goal, you must communicate freely and effectively. Digital channels can be an element of your team's communication. However, make sure it is not the only mode of communication.

In addition to emails and other digital communication, schedule regular face time with your virtual team on video or in person. This kind of face-to-face communication is more personal and makes it easier to get a read on what's happening with your virtual team members—and to ensure they have everything they need to be successful.

Not setting clear expectations and directions

When you provide your team with a task, you know exactly what they want. However, when you believe you have been clear on the needs of a project does not mean your team has a similar level of understanding.

It s always vital to provide detailed directions and set clear expectations with your team. Having your team members repeat the goals is also a good idea to ensure your message is understood. Communication challenges occur, and sometimes, words get lost in the process.

Rushing through meetings

Employees having discussionWhen you have an in-person meeting, it's a lot easier to run things like a conversation; people can quickly chime in when they have something to share in real time.

Virtual meetings can be challenging when you need a team meeting. Not actually being in a physical room with your virtual team members might not feel comfortable "interrupting." Therefore clarification of points might not occur as the team wants to complete this task.

If you rush through the meeting, your remote team might never see an opportunity to speak up and contribute naturally, and, as a manager, you'll lose out on their thoughts, contributions, and input.

If your remote team is not contributing enough to your virtual meetings, it could be because you are not providing the time and space. Pause regularly during your sessions to offer your remote team the opportunity to speak up.

Not setting the example

Perhaps this is the biggest mistake you can make when managing virtual teams.

Do you instruct your team that punctual virtual meetings attendance is a must, but then show up 10 minutes late? If you want your remote team to flourish, sending mixed messages will translate to other aspects of their work life.

Your team will look to you to set the standard for what's acceptable—and what's not—within your organization. So it's essential to embody the values that you want to inspire within your team.

Flawed meeting scheduling

Your 9-to-5 workday might not be the same across your team. Therefore scheduling meetings will need to take into account everyone's time zones. Sometimes certain team members might be located in different parts of the world. Thus, making it difficult to schedule appointments.

However, preparing a call sporadically or during business hours may look different for each party, depending on the time zones. Flexibility is essential when working with remote teams all across the world.

Providing a scheduled meeting time well in advance will help allow everyone to attend the meeting and run smoothly without further issues later. Utilizing video conferencing software like Cubo will allow you to save sessions and send them to those who can not attend.

Not creating team-building opportunities

Even though remote work is more common, it does not mean people do not want to work in the office. Employees enjoy the benefit of networking and team-building in a face to face situations.

Alternatively, providing a 30-minute open chat each week with people outside your team will help facilitate communication throughout the company. As a result, those participating in online activities can also network and create relationships with their colleagues.

Inconsistent feedback

Often, managers do not give regular and constructive feedback. Making feedback a clear priority will significantly improve team performance and confidence.

When employees do not know about past mistakes, they will not know how they can improve. Therefore it can be challenging to complete their work correctly.

As a result, managers ought to design a system to provide formal and informal feedback to employees. Moreover, the information should highlight the employees' shortcomings, strengths, and areas of improvement. The idea is to preserve your feedback as actionable and straightforward as feasible so remote employees can quickly follow through on it.

Micromanaging the team

Micromanagement is often mistaken for integral follow-ups by most managers. Just because managers can not see remote workers does not mean they can contact them every hour. Constant updates take time away from their performance and make them feel you can not trust them.

Messaging or calling your team members too often can put them under increased stress. Therefore it will hinder their productivity and inevitably lead to a toxic work environment. Managers should provide their teams autonomy when defining work schedules or deadlines, as long as they deliver high-quality work.

Deprioritized emotional well-being

After Covid, the relationship between remote teams pivoted dramatically. Employees often are found alone in their pods due to the lack of structure. They created habits of isolating themselves in the same physical place.

Managers must construct options for teams to interact online and for individual team associates to check-in. Managers misconstrue concentrating on managing the business and not enough on managing team members' social and emotional well-being.

A better way to support your team is to make a consistent effort to connect with them. The better you can understand their state of well-being, the better you will understand their needs. Not everyone will candidly share their feelings. However, embracing awareness and creating a psychological safety net will help provide help to those that want it.

Sometimes it is nice to know there is a space they can go if life becomes rough. Identifying your team's needs will allow you an opportunity to provide the tools needed to improve team cohesion.

Avoid these mistakes and build a successful virtual team.

No matter how long you have been managing teams, there is always room to improve. As technology improves, there will be a learning curve when building remote and distributed teams.

You now know some of the managers' most prominent mistakes while developing productive and effective remote units. Therefore, you can avoid these common pitfalls—and get to your destination of remote team success faster, more quickly, and more efficiently.