What Are the Best Practices for Virtual Leadership?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're leading a virtual team, there are many strategies you may follow that differ from in-person leaders. Though different in execution, these strategies may involve similar goals of improving your team's productivity, morale, and efficiency. Learning about these strategies or practices may help you create a team that functions effectively in a virtual environment. In this article, we discuss many of the best practices for virtual leadership.

12 best practices for virtual leadership

Here's a list of 12 of the best practices for virtual leadership, with a description of each:

1. Use the best communication tools

Choosing the best communication tools for your team can make a large difference in your ability to convey important pieces of information and collaborate on projects. Many modern virtual teams use instant messaging platforms specifically designed for corporate interactions. Using these platforms, you can track employee productivity by seeing how much time employees spend online, collaborate closely on projects through constant communication, and improve efficiency by decreasing the time spent waiting for messages from team members to appear.

Some teams may prefer to communicate using e-mail or another method, such as phone calls or video calls. Video calls have the added benefit of allowing team members to see one another, ensuring they can communicate with physical gestures and connect on a more personal level.

2. Create a team culture

Many leaders feel that the best project comes from a team that's completely unified and works cohesively. To create this type of team, you may want to create a virtual community or culture. By meeting regularly with your employees or coworkers online, discussing personal and professional interests, and creating an online workspace or shared documents, you can foster a sense of community within your team.

Encourage employees to participate in icebreakers or suggest ways for team members to work together more effectively. When employees know each other well and feel like they're part of a community, they may be much more comfortable collaborating on projects with one another. For example, an icebreaker that asks team members to share their favourite holidays may help your team better understand the individual diversity of your team.

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3. Establish an open communication policy

Teams that are serious about their virtual collaboration may want to create a formal communications policy. A clear communication policy can help you identify and resolve issues that may arise with one of your team members who isn't communicating properly online. In addition, a clear communication policy can help to ensure that all team members feel safe sharing all of their most current and sensitive project updates with the entire team. Some companies create an informal communications policy, where employees reach out to others in the company if they have any questions or concerns.

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4. Establish a team hierarchy

Teams that are serious about their virtual collaboration may want to designate a team hierarchy that designates who reports to who. At the top of the hierarchy is the leader who's responsible for keeping the team working together on projects. Below this, you may have assistant managers or leaders below the main leader. These people may meet with other members of the team to coordinate strategy, brainstorm, and lead online discussions. Your team's leadership group can help bring the entire group together when challenges arise and help build a sense of community and collaboration when needed.

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5. Encourage attendance

Making it clear that virtual teams are to have meetings and regularly attend them can help ensure that everyone feels connected and part of the team. Encouraging attendance helps those who participate in virtual teams feel like they're included in the team's progress and goals. This can help improve productivity and efficiency by ensuring that all team members are able to be as productive as possible while they work within a virtual environment.

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6. Investigate productivity tools

Many tools exist to help make your team more productive, including software that provides security, time management, collaboration features, and other integrated tools meant to facilitate productivity between multiple individuals at once. For example, if you are working in a virtual team that's utilizing agile methodology, you may use online tools to manage individual sprints of productivity. This may include a timer that counts down the length of a sprint or a visual tool that helps team members track their task progress.

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7. Conduct one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are often important in virtual teams, as they allow you to connect to one team member and communicate about their needs and get to know them on a personal level. This can also be an opportunity to provide individual mentorship or gain insight from team members who prefer to give feedback during individual meetings.

For example, If you have a team member who's not adjusting well to working with others online, you may want to meet with them one-on-one using a video call for a few hours each week in addition to the usual daily or weekly meetings. This can help develop trust through face-to-face interaction and improve productivity by creating greater camaraderie between your team members.

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8. Eliminate distractions

Virtual teams often pay close attention to eliminating distractions, as team members don't have the office environment to help maintain their focus. To avoid distractions, you may want to provide a quiet space where team members can work without interruption and create an atmosphere that promotes focus. For example, you may rent office spaces in the cities where your team members reside or encourage employees to meet at cafes or other working spaces.

9. Hold regular team meetings

Virtual teams often hold regular virtual meetings to keep everyone focused and to create a sense of camaraderie and community. Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly virtual meetings are generally the most effective at keeping everyone updated. These meetings may include sharing important updates, discussing strategies, or brainstorming new ideas. Online video calls allow your team members to see one another, making it easier for them to hold discussions about their projects, brainstorm ideas, or provide feedback.

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10. Provide remote training and mentorship

If you are using virtual learning or any type of distance education, it's important to find a professional training and mentorship provider who understands the unique challenges of delivering training effectively in this manner. Additionally, when choosing a training provider, it's important to find one that offers a variety of options for remote participation, including synchronous or live webinars, video webcasts, or virtual classrooms. The instructor may be available during each class session to answer student questions or mentor students as needed.

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11. Celebrate your team

Celebrating the successes of your team is important in improving morale and make sure members feel they are a part of the company's success. A team celebration can include sending team members an invitation or making a party announcement in the company newsletter. Example celebrations may include birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions, or marriages.

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12. Find professional support when needed

You can resolve problems that occur in virtual teams through the use of coaching and mentoring, where a company representative works with members of the team to provide mentorship and guidance. For example, you can seek guidance from IT professionals to help solve technical issues with communication tools or other virtual programs. This can help improve confidence in the virtual work environment and improve productivity by limiting downtime due to technical issues.

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