During “Corona days” legal advisers not only face ongoing legal challenges, but also a number of new challenges such as maintaining work morale: continuity, communicating remotely, sharing and managing knowledge, managing tasks on a remote basis and more.
There’s no doubt that these days, it’s imperative to know how to effectively manage “virtual” teams (besides all other legal and para-legal knowledge). The question is, how to do so. The answer is by adopting a clear and orderly management method based on these 5 rules:
1. Effective Communication
Social distancing can create significant challenges and can greatly impair staff productivity. This challenge is truly intensifying these days in light of existing pandemic concerns (both health wise and occupation wise). As such, try the following:
– Select a reliable and stable communication system(s) that will allow for conferencing, transparency, and effective/convenient written communication (both DM and on a staff level). Currently, there is an array of FREE platforms that can allow you to meet these needs (including Zoom, Slack, Skype and Google Hangouts).
-Make sure that team members are well informed on how to use the system you choose for communication, and that they are comfortable using it.
-Create a clear and complete protocol for the system (for ex. using the system solely for pressing work purposes, while at the same time perhaps building a WhatsApp group for sharing personal things and relieving some tension).
-Set hours and days for virtual meetings, both at the staff level and on an interpersonal level (it’s also recommended to increase virtual sessions even to daily meetings).
-Subject to the foregoing, open communication must be held, including:
- an increased amount of understanding and empathy for the situation and its uncertainty. -Leadership is never enforced by force; leadership grows from activity in the field, and is predicated upon the team’s trust in their manager and his/hers capabilities (both professionally and personally). Accordingly, the manager’s team should be given a sense that the success of the team and the manager themselves depend on each other equally. – know how to provide positive feedback, and of course also know how to receive critiques from team members.
- -Create a sense of value, on a personal and team level—create a sense of fairness and equality. -Lead by example.
2. Manage Tasks with Transparency & Clarity
At the end of the day, every employee and every team are measured by their productivity by their contributions to the organization. An interesting statistic to note in this context is that about 1/3 of “virtual” teams do not meet their expectations and goals. The reasons for this are varied, but quite a few of them are due to shortcomings in communication and lack of coordination of expectations. Accordingly, it’s recommended to:
-Choose a reliable and stable task management system that will enable task management on a personal and staff level with complete transparency. Currently, there are many free systems that meet these needs, including: Microsoft Planner, Outlook Task Manager, and Google Task Management. Needless to say, there are also excellent paid tools.
-Make sure that team member are informed on how to use the system and feel comfortable using it.
-Create a clear protocol for the usage of the system (for ex. deadlines for updating tasks and submitting progress reports/statuses).
-The division of tasks and goals, both on a team and personal level, should be done while providing a sense of guarantee; one for all and all for one.
-Task management should be done with full transparency for company decision makers and managers.
3. Quick & Efficient Conflict Management & Resolution
Virtual teams are more vulnerable because of distance and lack of direct communication. For example, an innocent email may be perceived by the reader as a harsh reprimand—because the reader does not have the context in which the email was written.
In addition, even a note in a conference call whose entire purpose is constructive feedback may be perceived as an “attack” due to the fact that everyone is present in the conversation.
Needless to say, tensions between team members can create a “toxic” work environment, and dramatically compromise productivity. So how do you avoid it? By implementing the following:
-Quickly identity points of friction and possible solutions (either through managerial decision, or through dialogue between members of the manager-mediated team).
-Establish open communication between team members and the manager.
-Deal with issues, tensions and problems right away rather than ignoring them. – Reduce existing tensions and direct their energies into a positive place, like performing tasks.
-Create a sense of unity and mutual benefit.
4. Creating a “team culture”
Despite the remoteness, it is very important to give each member a sense of uniformity, that they are a part of a team. Given that virtual teams are exposed to conflicts and shortcomings in the media, this is becoming more valid of an issue. So how do you establish a sense of a team?
-Create a positive and accepting work environment.
-Create team branding “Unit Pride” (for example, logo)
-Establish joint activities including webinars, team discussions, enrichment courses (in both the legal and other fields) and, for some time, team meetings at a specific location in the world.
-Create a place for interpersonal connection, including meetings where one of the team members talks about themselves, their hobbies, to create a sense of friendship and belonging.
5. Focus on results, encourage creativity and initiative
In order to achieve results and to work effectively, both on a personal and team level, work must be focused on outcomes rather than on time. It is very important to make it clear that there is a fundamental difference between being busy and being create and contributing. Accordingly, it’s recommended to do the following:
– Encourage team members to focus on results (and even provide incentive through financial and verbal rewards)
– Encourage thinking and conduct as if each team member is the CEO of the organization
– Encourage initiative and leadership skills
– Encourage openness and sharing, while setting clear rules for decision making (for example, raising ideas and suggestions, while understanding that the final decision is the responsibility of the manager)
– Equally important – to be flexible and agile in terms of thinking and performance, in order to be able to adapt to various changes quickly and effectively.
Implementation of these principles not only leads to effective management of “virtual” teams, but also results in significant contributions to the business. Team members will be committed to performing tasks, helping each other succeed and promoting the common goal. Such conduct will maximize flexibility and will allow you and your team to adapt to changing needs and situations, making sure each and every member is adding value to the organization.
Adv. Edo Bar-Gil is head of the Legal Ops department at LawFlex (https://www.lawflex.com/legal-ops)