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Leading Teams…Virtually

“I feel that a part of leadership, you know, being a leader, is perhaps having the position symbols in display.

It contributes to your aura of authority and power. You know, the sight of your luxury car parked in your personalised spot. The biggest office with the best fittings. Juniors scurrying around to bring your tea in the fancy coffee mug. How will people know I am the boss online? How will they feel me when they are working remotely?”

This question is used with consent and on condition of anonymity, and I use it anecdotally because I have already responded directly to the colleague. But yes, we are adjusting to so many losses in our various levels of work in the organisation aren’t we. Visibility, status and a sense of power are some of the ‘resources’ and ‘rewards’ that other colleagues feel diminish as we yield to the equalising platform of digitised workstations.

But is it a serious concern though? When you are a leader, whether the work is performed physically in an office with a team you can physically interact with, or with a virtual team that is working from remote digital workstations to facilitate social distancing, and then after COVID-19 blows over, to maintain the improved levels of productivity that some are reportedly experiencing by working from home, you have to work from the understanding that leadership is more than symbols of power and status.

If we define leadership as the ability to motivate a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal, we can immediately agree that in this new normal, just as in the previous reality, the first priority is necessarily knowing what it is we want to achieve, where we want to go, and how we plan to get there. As the leader, your role has not been changed or diminished by COVID-19, in fact, your role has become more complex because of it.

Assuming that the HR COVID-19 has uploaded the Employment Policy, the updated code of conduct with guidelines for remote work arrangements, and other general HR service documents on the ERP, you will not have staff ‘absences’ because leave can be applied for online, and attendance/punctuality can be monitored from logging reports. So the team is still your team, and all you need to do is maintain your watch on their deliverables.

ERP, and its various associated tools, is very useful, for those not yet acquainted with it,

because through this platform, tasks can be assigned and performance tracked by all users that are involved in that project. At the end of a performance cycle, it would be a matter of extracting a report, populated by data that both the supervisor and the employee had sight of all along, which makes appraisals that much easier. The appraisal can be scheduled on Teams.

So as far as actual delivery is concerned, nothing much has really changed. It is still the same basic equation of empowering staff with information about performance expectations, availing resources, training on the use of applications and devices, and ensuring the availability of the supervisor for coaching and general guidance. Perhaps what is more challenging is defining the expectations, because in a traditional set-up, it is not uncommon for staff to simply do whatever they think their work is, without the direct input and guidance of the supervisor. 

Going online to facilitate remote work is exposing knowledge and competency gaps that perhaps are more of a concern than the actual ability to deliver, or supervise delivery. Do we all know how to use the various online platforms to schedule a meeting, invite the required attendees, upload the necessary documentation, record the proceedings and come away having achieved our purposes? Because to be honest, some of us are simply learning as we go, with the risk of fumbling and appearing a bit ragged, when we are otherwise very polished professionals in ‘the real world’.

How do I, for instance, chair an online meeting and maintain momentum and focus when people keep fading in and out because of their network issues? How do I keep everyone engaged while we deal with the static or echo or other disruption that occasionally interfere? Are there security risks?

Please capacitate those of us who are new to this, and perhaps intimidated by technology and its sudden burst into our day to day working lives, so that we can hold our teams together, whether they are at physical or digital stations.

Please note that comments are welcome at Every effort is made to respond to individuals, and mail received is treated as confidential. Please note however that in cases of specific work-related grievances and disputes submitted, Shameela Winston will not pronounce opinions nor prescribe remedies. Thank you.

The H.R. Dashboard



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