The Art of Virtual Leadership – 4 Keys to Lead Remote Workers and Manage Virtual Teams

Many organizations believe that one of the biggest challenges they face when implementing a virtual office is managing mobile or remote workers. It is unfortunate that they allow this perception to prevent them from reaping the many benefits of a more flexible workplace.

Remote management is not radically different from managing people on site. The biggest difference is a change in management style from “visual management” (assuming workers are productive because you see them physically working at their desks) to managing by results.

By learning to eat by results rather than activity, improve communication, and build trust between managers and employees, the entire organization benefits. In fact, virtual team managers have reported that their overall managerial skills increased for both onsite and offsite workers.

There are 4 main keys to leading remote employees. These distance management tips will help you work more successfully with your mobile workers and virtual teams.

Basics of managing remote or mobile workers

  • Manage by results, not by activity
  • Improve communication to stay connected
  • Management of meetings and agendas.
  • feedback and support


One of the most common fears managers and executives have when considering virtual teams is, “How do I know my employees will be working if I’m not there to keep an eye on them?” Well the simple answer is you won’t, not every minute. But realistically, you can’t be sure they’re actually working every minute you see them in the office either; it’s easy to confuse activity with productivity.

A manager’s job is to provide specific, measurable, and achievable goals for the remote employee so they know what needs to be done and when. These may include reports completed, number of calls made, and number of support issues resolved, or any other appropriate measure of work productivity.

It is important that the employee and manager come to a shared definition of the deliverables and schedule together. This ensures everyone is on the “same page” and prevents miscommunication. It also ensures that goals and expectations are realistic.

A manager’s value to an organization is more as a coach and mentor than as a supervisor. This move away from “visual management” and the consequent clearer definition of employee job responsibilities is one of the main factors contributing to the productivity gains typically experienced with virtual teams.

Shifting your focus to performance-based management will help you create a more productive mobile workforce.


Effective communication is one of the most important elements in ensuring a successful virtual team. This is one area of ​​remote work that technology helps make very easy. There are a variety of tools available that allow employees to stay in touch and collaborate.

The most obvious way to promote ease of communication with remote workers is to have defined work hours. By clearly stating the hours employees need to be available, you can circumvent a common point of confusion and ensure timely communication. Recognize, however, that there is a balance between being in touch and being bothered. This balance must be developed over time.

When remote workers are not immediately available, or communication is not taking place in “real time”, another area that can cause challenges is the timeliness of communication. On-site managers and co-workers often worry that they won’t be able to get in touch with remote workers when needed.

An easy, but often overlooked, solution to this problem is to create a set schedule for checking and responding to voicemail and email messages. This can be hourly, twice a day, or whatever is appropriate for your situation. This schedule, along with an expected response time, allows everyone to be sure that their messages will be received and that they will receive a response.

There are also a variety of practices managers can put in place to help remote employees stay “connected” and still feel like part of the gang at the office. These include having regularly scheduled phone calls, including virtual team members at impromptu luncheons and other social events, and routing more informal information, memos, and FYI items to them.


Meetings serve a variety of crucial purposes for any organization or team project, including sharing information, staying up to date on developments, making decisions, reporting progress, brainstorming, and exploring ideas, plans, and alternatives.

Keeping track of everyone’s agenda and including remote workers in meetings can seem overwhelming for an organization investigating virtual teamwork. By being creative with time management and using technology and tools appropriately, time can become less of a problem.

There are web-based groupware and virtual office platforms, as well as dedicated software solutions available that manage group schedules and shared calendars. These allow on-site and off-site employees to access current schedules and up-to-date information on last-minute schedule changes.

An important understanding is that not all meetings need to be face-to-face. If you use the technology right, remote workers can use a mix of teleconferencing, video conferencing, web conferencing, and group software to join meetings and attend presentations in real time without the added cost or travel time requirement. These tools also allow you to include remote workers in important ad hoc meetings that arise.

For times when face-to-face communication is preferable or necessary, schedule meetings when mobile workers and virtual team members are in the office. A simple approach is to schedule regular meetings, such as a staff meeting on the second Tuesday of every month or a team meeting every Friday. This kind of regularity makes meetings easier to plan.


An important but basic management technique that is often neglected is providing employees with ongoing feedback and support. Many employees, at all organizational levels, feel they don’t get enough feedback from managers about their performance. This type of ongoing discussion takes on greater importance with virtual teams.

Regular meetings should be scheduled between managers and remote workers to assess needs, give feedback, and discuss issues. These are excellent opportunities to agree on the scope of work to be done, deadlines, and deadlines.

Another important way to improve your relationship with remote or mobile workers is to make sure you include them in the feedback and praise. Many managers and executives provide feedback and praise to their employees in a very informal way, often when they see these colleagues or coworkers in the office. Remote employees don’t have as many opportunities to meet with the boss or a manager, so it takes extra effort to keep them informed.

This doesn’t mean a lot of extra work, it’s more of a presence of mind. Even using simple and quick ways to let people know how you’re doing, such as a short voice message or email, or a quick note written in the margin of a report or memo, helps employees stay motivated and focused.

Also, don’t forget to give the audience a pat on the back from time to time, such as at a staff meeting. This reassures onsite workers that remote workers are carrying their load and can minimize any potential resentment that onsite employees may feel towards virtual team members and their work arrangement.

Fear of the challenges of managing virtual teams and keeping them connected are two of the most common obstacles organizations face. This often prevents them from taking advantage of the power and flexibility that comes with having a more mobile workforce.

Don’t let these fears in his shape. The necessary management techniques and strategies are not new, they are the same things that good managers have been doing for years to build trust and clear communication among their team. Using the guidelines I’ve shared with you in these four key areas, you can work effectively from anywhere and keep your team connected!