For the past two weeks, I’ve shared tips with you for creating results and managing performance when leading a virtual team. Last week’s tips focused on discussing both the ends and the means and creating a game plan. This week’s tips are about creating a feedback and coaching loop and maintaining the relationship.
Tip 5: Create a feedback and coaching loop. Feedback on performance is most effective when it is timely and about performance that you’ve directly observed. In a virtual world, the ability to physically see someone’s performance is not always possible. Create processes that allow you to gain meaningful information about an individual’s performance. For example, a sales director uses a survey with customers to get input into a sales person’s performance. While she created the survey to get direct feedback from customers who interact with her salespeople in live situations that she is unable to attend, it has created better customer relationships. The customers have told her that they are thrilled to be asked because it allows them to be heard. Also use technology to coach. For example, virtual meeting software could allow a less experienced team member to simulate a client presentation to you, providing you with the opportunity to coach them in real time.
Tip 6: Maintain the relationship. Our first tip was about relationship building. Once you’ve built the relationship, take steps to maintain it. When we primarily use technology to communicate, we often feel like we need to have a reason to communicate. Develop a culture that says it’s ok to just check in – not check up on – by calling or initiating contact without a specific need. Make it clear that you don’t see this as a sign that someone doesn’t have enough to do. Also, make a point to communicate the positive. Say thank you, recognize an individual’s achievements and results. If we are in the habit of using technology as a vehicle for only task oriented communication, we miss an opportunity to use it as a vehicle for building capabilities and engagement. Model this behavior with our team and you’ll find that when you do need to communicate because of a specific need, those conversations are more productive.
Effectively leading performance in a virtual world is similar in many ways to effectively leading performance in a more traditional work configuration. Leaders need to communicate expectations, monitor behavior and results, and establish an effective relationship so that we can work through the invariable issues and problems that arise. Ina a virtual world, we have an ever growing toolkit to help leaders be more effective. By understanding how to use each appropriately, leaders can get strong performance in any of the many work arrangements we find today.