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3 tips for leading teams in an online world

A lot of things are easier online. Shopping only takes a click of a button; you can go to the movies right in your living room, not to mention entire libraries stored on the internet.

One thing that hasn’t gotten any easier is leadership. In person, you have many truly effective tools at your disposal to lead effectively. You can organise your team by just getting them together in a meeting room, or if someone needs to talk to you, they can just stroll over to your desk.

Online, executive leadership is less straightforward. How can you effectively lead a group of people when those people aren’t in the same place? They might even be in different cities—or scattered across the world for all the difference it makes.

But working from home has swelled in our workforces—the environment we work in is changing, but our need for good leadership is not. So that’s why we’re going to take a look at three big tips to help you lead effectively in an online world.

1. Communication

One of the most critical parts of leadership in any environment is communication. If you want people to do the work they are supposed to and work together smoothly, they need to understand what they should be doing clearly. Communication is also essential for checking in with your colleagues to ensure that they’re not having trouble with anything or to help them if they are.

In person, this is pretty simple. You can just explain to people your expectations of their work, and if they have any problems, they can just come over and tell you what the issue is. You can easily discuss solutions and figure out what works and what doesn’t with relative efficiency.

That’s not a luxury everyone has in online environments. It seems a lot harder to reach someone when they’re not physically in your sights, and people are generally more reluctant to reach out with an issue if it takes too much effort to get in contact with you.

But here are a few small, simple steps you can take to keep up the communication within your team:

  • Schedule regular catchups (both as a team and individually)
  • When possible, use video chat instead of just text or audio
  • Make an effort to form deeper relationships beyond work (eg: ask your teammates how they’re going aside from what they’re doing at work)

2. Consistency

There is a comfort that comes with having a steady routine. You wake up at a certain time, you get ready, you make your way to the office and, although your daily activities may vary, there is a kind of consistency that makes each day a bit easier to handle. You know what to expect from it and you know what is expected of you.

In an office, it’s fairly simple to know what is expected of you. After all, you can see what your colleagues are doing and the kinds of standards they’re adhering to. But at home, the expectations may be less obvious, and without other people around you to hold you accountable, you may find your motivation to work according to those standards getting lower and lower.

Leading in an environment that makes consistent expectations hard to clarify or enforce is not an easy task, but there are a few things you can do to make it just that bit easier:

  • Discuss the procedures and standards of your workplace as a team
  • Be transparent about why certain standards are in place
  • Delegate leadership to build trust
  • Reward good work

That last one is especially important, so let’s go into it in some more detail in our final tip for the day.

3. Rewards

A goal is usually much easier to work towards if you not only have a clear idea of what it is, but also if you can track your progress and easily see how far you’ve come. Think about it: a marathon runner is much more likely to push herself to finish if she’s passed a landmark that means she’s almost at the end (especially if she knows there’s a trophy at the end). Keeping track of your progress and rewarding good work is a fantastic way to keep up motivation within a team.

In an office, you might have a board that lists all the milestones your team is aiming for, but when you work online it can be really easy to lose track of how much you’ve done and how much you still need to do.

Lucky for you, there are quite a few ways you can track your progress online:

  • Virtual Kanban boards which everyone can access can take the place of a physical whiteboard
  • Progress tracking software like Accelo can help you know what your team is devoting their time to

And once you have achieved a goal or a milestone, it’s important to keep up the motivation of your team by rewarding their good work. It’s not as easy when you’re all together in person, but you can still reward people by:

  • Sending a congratulatory message
  • Sending a gift card
  • Award nominations

Whether in person or online, acknowledging good work can go a long way in encouraging your team members to work effectively.

Want to learn more?

Of course, there is more to leading online than these three things. With a PRODUCER license, you can access our free Learning Library, which includes a series of pre-made modules on leading remote teams and working remotely. You can use these modules in your own organisation, you only need to contextualise them, add your own theme and publish.


Beth Kaldas
25 June 2020 4 Min Read

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