A lot of the changes that take place when you start workshifting fall onto management’s shoulders. It should be completely understandable, then, that the most resistance to telework comes from managers. After all, they are the ones who will need to change the most. Here’s three changes you should plan for as your team goes from office-based to virtual:
Eyeball management to trust management
You can’t see your team anymore, but what you can see is a rapid growth in team trust. Did you ever do a trust fall before? They put you up high on a ledge of some kind with your back to your team. Then with your arms at your side, you freefall into your coworkers’ arms. If you don’t trust them, your arms kind of swing out and knock out a few teeth. But the point of the exercise is not to rack up dental appointments — people only develop trust when they have to.
If you can stare at people, you don’t need to trust them. There they are. On the other hand, if you trust fall into the arms of your team, people will catch you. Managers of virtual teams need to create plans to manage and foster trust.
Observation oriented to Success oriented
It’s a nice luxury to walk through the office and observe your team at work. Seeing everyone in one location makes it easier to identify things to work on. But that can end up being a management crutch. Managers end up chasing symptoms they see and the “things to work on” never solve the actual problem.
It’s quite the opposite among the workshifting manager. She can’t see anything (unless she uses video, but that’s another story). The workshifting manager must rely on successes and failures — measurable outcomes. Instead of looking around for random things to manage, expect to manage actions and their results.
Dedicated teams to Flexible, loosely defined teams
The change in team dynamics and structure can be the most frustrating as you move towards virtual teams. Office-based teams are often static, established, and unchanging. People stay part of a specific team for a long time. Each person has a role and set tasks to perform.
When you switch to virtual teams, you’ll find that people will start working on multiple projects. People will move in and out of teams as needed. Teams will continuously form, dissolve, and re-form. The challenge for managers is to keep track of who is in which teams. The other challenge is to keep up with the faster pace that this type of environment creates. A workshifting team is flexible and constantly changing to fit needs as they arise. As Everett Dirksen says:
I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.