Fresnel Software

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Leading in a Virtual Environment

What does it take to run and lead a virtual work environment? The internet is filled with a plethora of examples of both successes and failures. Recently, I have had the privilege of working with a team where the virtual workplace works quite well. Though, I am by no means an expert at the virtual workplace, in fact, this was my first virtual workplace experience. At first I was quite skeptical, however,  my colleagues and I believed if we applied good leadership principles, then the virtual workplace can work. We have grown from 3 executives to 20 team members, 50% working virtually. In the next few weeks, a white paper I am currently working on, discussing the virtual workplace, will be published, until then here are a few ideas on how to succeed leading a virtual workplace: s

  1. Take the time to inspire:

    • Formulate a clear vision, mission and core values. Clearly define them, speak them often, and post them around the office, communication boards and your shared drives. A Vision should excite people and ultimately be about making the world a better place to be. Be intentional about holding yourself and others accountable to the values, make them part of the daily conversation. Values should guide everyone’s behavior, including those who work virtually.
  2. Set a rigid hiring process:

    • We utilize a 4-stage hiring process

      • Phase 1 - introduction interview. Our questions screen for competence and character (using our values).

      • Phase 2 -  general knowledge questionnaire run by a third party. Recently we have seen value in having  this assessment be a  position fit assessment tool.

      • Phase 3 - role specific project testing  for skill.

      • Phase 4 - requires the candidate to defend and explain their project.

    • All phases of the interview include associates from HR, the executive and future fellow team leaders or members.

  3. On-board well:

    • Our onboarding process is completed virtually, through our HRIS, prior to the new employee's first day.This allows us to be  productive with our new employee starting on day 1.

  4. Provide training up front:

    • We offer training on Values Based Leadership, DiSC behavioral profiles, Situational Leadership within the first couple months of hire. All of this training  is intended to guide communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, and clarity.

  5. Establish clear goals & objectives and provide frequent informal weekly review and feedback.

    • We utilize a scrum/sprint process including daily virtual stand-ups, weekly reviews, and 2 week goals.

    • Hold people accountable to the goals or tasks they agreed on (sometimes accountability is humorous ( cat videos) a sometimes it is more serious in the form of a discussion with your team or team leader.

  6. Performance Management - make the formal assessment process frequent, simple, and quick.

    • We utilize our Bamboo HR HRMS to facilitate the following:

      1. Quarterly Supervisor and self-evaluation (5 key questions including one on values). T

      2. Confidential quarterly peer feedback which is filtered through the supervisor.

      3. We take the tools above to develop a quarterly measure of employee engagement which the executives assess and action quarterly.

  7. Provide effective tools:

    • We utilize slack for internal communication, e-mail for external, google drive for shared folders.

    • We have built guidance in the form of an employee handbook where edits and suggestions are made continuously by the team.

  8. Meet face to face frequently:

    • My colleagues and I agreed we needed to invest in quarterly face-to-face team meetings (these are 1 week and involve both work, play, and learning activities). We have discovered that bringing our global team together quarterly is priceless.

  9. Guard your culture with passion:

    • When team members are falling down, deal with it immediately. Work to help them succeed, however, if the probability of success is low, don’t be afraid to  move them out. Nothing pulls high performers down more than leadership not dealing with a low performer.

  10. Trust your team and your process:

    • At the end of day, not everyone is at their work station all the time. We could digress and wonder “where they are?”. Or we need to ask ourselves:

      1. Have they let us know they are away from station?

      2. Are they hitting their targets?

      3. Are they attending all meetings on time and with effectiveness?

      4. Are they demonstrating our values?

      5. Are they supporting the team?

    • If the answer is yes, then let go of control and hang on to trust.


This blog write is the guideline for a white paper I will be publishing later this month and publishing on this site. I hope you have found it informative and hope you use it to stimulate a dialogue amongst your colleagues.


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