Ascendis Blog

Making a Perspective Shift to Virtual Team Leadership

What can you do if you’re responsible for a team, organization, or company with employees who are now working virtually? Lee Johnsen, Principal of Partners in Development, sat down for an interview with Sue Drake, President of Drake Resources Group and the Ascendis Leadership Academy, to talk about how to shift your perspective and keep your high-performing team engaged during this time. 

  1. What is the difference between a remote worker and a virtual team member?

The difference is the level of collaboration and interdependence among others to complete goals/tasks. The greater the level of interdependence among individuals, the greater the need to work effectively as a cohesive virtual team. The tasks of remote workers, such as external consultants, insurance adjustors, graphics designers, etc., rely on far less collaboration from others, making the work much less interdependent.

  1. What is a Team Operating Agreement, and why is it so important?

For newly organized teams or for teams that have shifted to working remotely, it’s critical to discuss and reach a common understanding of the team’s mission, goals, and to agree on protocols for working together, s,uch as meeting participation, response times to information requests, and decision making authority. This proactive step reduces confusion, misunderstandings, and frustration, which all lead to disengagement. Conversely, it improves efficiency, clarifies procedures, and boosts performance.  A Team Operating Agreement summarizes the common understanding on how team members will work together.

  1. What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received about leading from a distance (remotely)?

Make the implicit explicit. In the absence of face-to-face interactions, you have to be ultra-clear in your language and make sure your tone of voice and any visible body language are aligned. We can’t assume that the other person received is the same message we (implied) sent. Verify what others heard. If there are differences, clarify so that everyone has the same understanding.

For Part 2 of this interview, please join us in September 2020!