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Leading Virtual Teams


The impact of COVID-19 has made the concept of working in virtual teams a sudden reality for most organizations.While some organizations are used to connecting with one another online, others are challenged to start working digitally and virtually. At Capgemini we are accustomed to connecting with each other online and managing a digital workforce, while our colleagues are out and about on different projects all over the world. With this blog we want to provide you, as a leader of a virtual workforce, with some insights and best practices from our experience with leading virtual teams. Let’s talk about how to go about virtual working, what this requires of your emotional intelligence as a leader and how you can still empower your organizations’ talent. We have collected fifteen of our most important best practices for you, and as a bonus we share best practices on virtual learning.

Virtual Working

First off is virtual working. How do you bring your team online and how do you work effectively? Ensure you think about the following:

  1. Decide on customs, behaviors and rules for virtual work
    For example: dial in on time, mute your microphones when not speaking, use the camera function, don’t dominate the conversation
  2. Facilitate virtual work and resolve any disruption or barriers
    Facilitate team members in working virtually (home office, tools, how to use communication channels) Resolve any barriers or disruption in virtual teams.
  3. Find a virtual meeting rhythm
    Find a rhythm that works for the team and consistently meet, meaning have regular meetings preferably at the same time and day every week
  4. Simplify goals into smaller tasks and actions that have an owner
    Be explicit about tasks and processes in addition to goals and roles, simplify the work as much as possible and assign tasks to small sub teams to ensure ownership and clarity of the work
  5. Walk the talk! Show your team that you have adopted the virtual working and be an example

Emotional Intelligence

Next up is Emotional Intelligence, meaning the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically. This is a vital skill for leaders and managers in any context, but particularly in this challenging, digital time:

  1. Be aware that it is challenging to spot non-verbal signals
    Pay attention to team members and be very explicit in communication and questions you ask. Over the phone or via Skype/Zoom/Teams or in any other online communication channel it is challenging to spot any non-verbal communication.
  2. Make time for virtual coffee breaks with the team
    Ensure there is a time and a place (online) for small talk and checking in with each other apart from the task-oriented conversation
  3. Maximize the online experience
    By using video and online energizers by using instant- interactions tools such as Kahoot, Klaxoon, Mentimeter, Mural, DEON (and many more).
  4. Continue one-on-one meetings with team members
    For coaching purposes, reflection and assessing the team’s needs
  5. Encourage your team to pay attention to their wellbeing, both mentally and physically
    And pay extra attention to any signals you receive around this. To keep the physical activity going you might want to initiate lunchtime Skype meetings (Walk & Talk) or at-home workouts. Or ask your team for (health guidelines-aligned) inspiration. Who can teach a yoga class? Who can offer a virtual boxing masterclass?

Talent Empowerment

Now that you’ve got your team online, working effectively and paying attention to their wellbeing, it is time to talk about talent empowerment. How do you keep a team productive, empower talent and accelerate creativity and innovation in this new context?

  1. Pay attention to your leadership style
    It is important to keep in mind that it is motivating and empowering to have leaders that trust and give a certain amount of space and autonomy to employees to work. It is better to use feedback to drive development and positive changes in behavior of remote workers instead of micro-managing their tasks.
  2. Use feedback to drive development in a positive way
    As mentioned in the emotional intelligence part of this blog, it is important to continue having one-on-one conversations with your team members to assess their needs and keep them motivated. This is an opportunity for you as a leader to show you believe in the capabilities of your team and set expectations. Use feedback techniques to emphasize the positive aspects of what you have seen and provide space to share development needs from both sides.
  3. Delegate responsibilities and trust your team
    If you really want to empower the talent in your team, provide them with a challenging goal or tasks responsibilities and a framework which enables them to be successful. Trust them to be successful in an assignment. This increases team confidence.
  4. Take extra care to recognize employees that thrive in this new context
    This new context and way of working is also an opportunity to spot who is taking on the challenge and is taking a step forward. Don’t forget to acknowledge your teams’ successes and compliment or celebrate positive behaviors you see happening.
  5. Reframe work in this new context – challenge assumptions.
    It is an opportunity to create new convictions! Experiment with new ways of working, new roles and new task distribution and be amazed with the results.

Virtual Learning

Part of securing this digital way of working and continue facilitating for the development of your team is to keep (virtual) learning and development running smoothly. There are several ways in which this can be done.

  1. Get in touch with your organizations’ Learning & Development department.
    What trainings are already available online? Perhaps your organization also has partnership with online learning platforms, such as Coursera. Use this time to digitalise the learning possibilities if there aren’t any.
  2. Prioritize learning that contributes to smooth virtual collaboration.
    Be aware that not everyone might be as tech savvy as our younger generations. Mobilize your team to help each other in this area. For example: do your teams need training on how to work with Skype/Teams/Other online communication channel. Or on how to work with collaboration and energizers? Use this time to upskill in the area that is most relevant for your way of working. And use the expertise that is available.
  3. Review development plans together with your teams and check what still can be followed online
    There is nothing wrong with a bit of self-directed learning as long as it contributes to the development areas that have been planned for.
  4. Peer-to-peer training is an inexpensive and often safe, effective way of developing others. Perhaps (some) areas of your organization have a bit more downtime now why not ask them to develop several “peer-to- peer” training courses (Extra benefit is that colleagues can showcase their expertise and expand their network).
  5. Don’t forget the old-school way of learning...
    and maybe recommend (or even gift) your team the best book that you have read in the past months related to business/management/self- development

Are you looking for more guidance or have you been facing any challenges during this time and/or in a digital way of working? We have published different reports that can help you navigate the topic. Read our research report about virtual organizations and real leadership here, and the emotional intelligence report here. If you have specific questions, please contact our experts via their LinkedIn profiles tagged here below. Our consultants are here for you and in these unique times we will personalize our services according to your needs and challenges.

Also see our infographic on leading virtual teams


Lucas Ruijs, Senior Consultant People & Organization
Elise Schut, Senior Consultant People & Organization
Laura Ackermans, Senior Consultant People & Organization