Remote, transient virtual teams are not well suited to traditional management. By definition people are distributed and most of the work goes on individually, away from the gaze of traditional supervision.
One longitudinal study of 51 temporary virtual teams found that behavior control mechanisms typically used by a manager in collocated teams have a significant negative effect on trust in virtual teams – for example, specifying the rules and procedures and requiring frequent filing of project plans and project reports.
The democratization of data and information means that whether we like it or not, information will increasingly undermine the traditional hierarchy and bypass middle managers. In addition, the current trend towards having multiple bosses and being part of multiple teams makes escalation for authorization or questions ever more complex and time consuming. Yet that is exactly what is still happening in many organizations today.
As well as being good for creating agile, customer-focused organizations, people much prefer being given more autonomy and being empowered to make decisions. It also makes them more effective.
A longitudinal study in Australia of 3,045 workers found that increased job autonomy and skill utilization at work can enhance people’s ‘internal locus of control’ – that is, the belief that they can influence their life and work outcomes rather than it all being down to external circumstances. A strong internal locus of control has been shown to have many benefits for individuals across multiple life domains.
Think about it, would you rather have the freedom to reach your team goals together as a group in the best way you see fit, given all the other commitments you are all juggling – or have a boss breathing down your neck every 5 minutes asking for updates?
Think through what you can do today to let go of some control – whether that be cancelling a review meeting, letting them decide when to come to you for questions or reducing the regular management information reports you require.
Trust, coach and empower your virtual team and they will flourish.
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