Issues and Solutions for Virtual Management

When it comes to virtual management, certain characteristics of the digital working environment pose unique considerations for how managers interact with and motivate their team members.  By acknowledging the issues impacting task and relationship behaviors, a virtual leader can utilize a coaching approach to lower turnover, improve morale, and ensure timely completion of projects.

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Issues of a Virtual Environment

When facing the prospect of leading a team in a virtual environment, the lack of being “face-to-face” with employees poses a diverse set of challenges.  Communicating face-to-face and having physical accessibility to employees is a key aspect of performing relationship behaviors (Northouse, 2016).  In order to compensate for the lack of physical closeness, a manager can utilize tools like video conferencing and ensuring open, constant communication with team members.  It is crucial that virtual team members feel supported and are encouraged to speak out with any issues they are facing.

Another consideration with virtual team leadership is the issue of task accomplishment.  Without being able to easily access team members, employees might face performance issues due to lesser structure and accountability.  The leader can compensate for this perceived lack of structure by utilizing project management tools and ensuring that employees clearly understand the scope of assigned tasks and their deadlines (DeRosa & Lepsinger, 2015).  Utilizing project and time management tools can help to regulate accountability and encourage employees to take individual responsibility for their work.

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The Coaching Approach

Considering the management issues faced in performing both task and relationship behaviors in a virtual environment, an effective leadership style should allow a leader to compensate for the weaknesses impacting both of these areas.  In the S2/coaching approach from the situational approach to leadership, the leader takes on a high-directive, high-supportive style: focusing on “both achieving goals and meeting followers’ socio-economic needs” (Northouse, 2016, p. 94).  The coaching leadership style allows a virtual team leader to remain emotionally and “physically” accessible to team members, while also keeping the workload organized and empowering employees to take responsibility for their assignments. 

In my personal experience, having open communication and a supportive atmosphere is crucial for virtual teams to be successful.  According to the Harvard Business Review, “the ongoing dialogue of coaching guarantees that people know what is expected of them and how their work fits into a larger vision or strategy. That affects responsibility and clarity” (Goleman, 2000, p. 87).  It is important for a virtual leader to have the ability to structure the workload and monitor the progress of employees.  At the same time, it is crucial that followers view their virtual leader as a supportive source they can go to with any problems.  The coaching approach to management addresses the unique task and relationship needs of a virtual team and provides solutions for leaders who work in a virtual environment. 

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DeRosa, D., & Lepsinger, R. (2015). How to lead an effective virtual team. Retrieved from

Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, 78(2), 78-90.

Northouse, P. G. (2015). (7th ed.) Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage Publications

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