Coronavirus Special

How team leaders demonstrate “digital leadership” and virtual teams cooperate efficiently despite physical distancing.

Published in June 2020

1. Structure of the working day

Clearly defined rules and structures foster reliability and promote togetherness. Team processes and communication structures should be agreed with all team members and defined transparently so that the members of the team can work together in an atmosphere of trust. Structures are also important for each individual within the team because they give security and facilitate resilience in stress situations. The mobile working day therefore also needs to be maximally binding and precisely planned.


2. Online meetings: Giving everybody a voice

Regular virtual meetings help the team to synchronise tasks and progress statuses. It’s important to observe a few rules in order to ensure that virtual meetings are as congenial and efficient as possible. It’s particularly important for the team leader to give all team members a voice at the meeting in order to ensure a full exchange of information.


3. Finding solutions together

Many roads lead to Rome – and you can work together to find the shortest route. Team leaders should be proactive in asking their employees for ideas on how virtual teamwork can be improved. Swarm intelligence often helps to structure operating procedures more efficiently. And solutions that are developed jointly by the team are embraced more readily by each individual.


4. Generating digital closeness

Team leaders should regularly seek contact with their team members. A phone call is more personal and provides a more interactive experience than an email. For example, a direct conversation gives a team leader a better opportunity to get to the bottom of differences between team members and pick up on individual nuances, and respond as necessary to such currents at an early stage.


5. Remaining in social contact

The network at the coffee machine is on hold in virtual teams. It’s therefore all the more important to create virtual meeting spaces. This might take the form of spending a quarter of an hour before the actual start of a working meeting on a video chat in a virtual coffee break. Or joining up for a virtual Happy Hour after work in the evening. As with real contact, having fun together can forge a good virtual team.


6. Avoid media effects and strengthen feedback processes

When engaging in virtual meetings, information levels we are familiar with from analogue meetings often get lost. Facial expression, gesture and the sense that there is “something in the wind” are often not registered in the same way at virtual conferences. It’s possible to restrict these so-called media effects by adjusting your communication behaviour appropriately. Where a simple nod from everyone present is sufficient at analogue meetings, a feedback process is necessary in virtual meetings and it’s necessary to ask everybody individually whether, for example, there is agreement about what has been said about the topic under discussion within the team. Individual feelings and opinions beyond the factual level also need to be expressed and flagged up more strongly and explicitly in virtual meetings.


7. Celebrate successes together

It’s important not to forget to conclude all the “To Dos” during the course of the day with “Done” at the end of the day. Target attainments and success stories are not simply good for individual motivation. They also demonstrate to the team that it has been cooperating efficiently together. Team leaders therefore need to make work progress and successes transparent, and address these issues strategically – a pat on the shoulder instils pride in digital form as well, and lifts morale to a higher level.

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