How to Manage in Cyberspace

By Caulat, Ghislaine | Public Finance, May 2013 | Go to article overview

How to Manage in Cyberspace


Caulat, Ghislaine, Public Finance


Virtual working has become increasingly common in recent years thanks to globalisation, growing concern for the environment and the need for organisations to find savings.

It has been enthusiastically adopted by 'Generation Y employees who have grown up in a digital world - and by those who are seeking to achieve a better work/life balance for themselves and their teams. In the public sector, it is attracting increasing interest, especially with the pressure to cut costs and the increase in remote working. Restructuring has also resulted in more geographically dispersed teams.

Despite the pressure, many managers continue to regard virtual working as second-best - a last resort for when you cannot travel or meet face to face. They struggle with the concept of leadership in the virtual space and managing the performance of people they rarely see.

But virtual working is not something to be done purely out of necessity. It is ahighly advantageous way of conducting business that allows organisations to deploy the best brains to the task in hand, regardless of where they may be located.

Managing effectively in an online world does, however, require new approaches. In a virtual environment, leaders need to put more emphasis on relationships than tasks. They need to find new ways to motivate people, build trust and facilitate communication between remote workers.

So here are ten ways to maximise the potential of virtual working and get the best out of remotely located teams.

1 ADAPT TO YOUR NEW ENVIRONMENT

It's important to recognise that in the virtual workspace, everything is amplified. As a consequence of this, leaders will find themselves more exposed. Personal traits and behaviours are more visible in a virtual environment than they may be face to face. People listen more intently and can see the flaws in arguments more easily. Leaders need to develop a stronger self-awareness of how they manage their emotions, react to situations and express themselves when communicating to their staff.

2 LEARN TO LISTEN DIFFERENTLY

Most managers have been trained to be alert to body language and to pick up visual cues when in meetings or while speaking one to one with members of their teams. Body language, however, often distracts us from what is being said. To work effectively in the virtual space, leaders need to learn how to listen in different and more attentive ways. They will have to develop a kind of seventh sense that will allow them to connect with people at a deeper and more intuitive level.

3 CREATE ALEVEL PLAYINGFIELD

Getting the team dynamics right in a virtual meeting requires that everyone is linked in, both virtually and independently. Combining virtual participants with others sitting face to face round a microphone simply doesn't work. Trust can quickly become eroded. For example, it is very easy for someone who is isolated on the end of a line to misinterpret a silence and worry that the people at the other end are 'ganging up' on them. The separation in distance can create an emotional gulf between the participants of the meeting.

4 CONSIDER PEOPLE'S SCHEDULES

Managers working with shift-orientated teams will often arrange virtual meetings at a time convenient for them, without taking account of those who are working on different schedules. …

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