COVID19 leading in crisis

Ten success factors for virtual collaboration-[/ whohit]

Remote connection. What one can learn from the Corona crisis about virtual leadership and collaboration – and what one can’t.

By Axel Klopprogge, Anne Burmeister and Franz Eichinger

A study by the Goinger Kreis – A study by the Goinger Kreis
First interim report

Virtual collaboration is technically possible. The instruments and platforms are easy to use and generally work reliably. But the technical functioning is only one dimension of leadership and cooperation. For virtual collaboration to really work sustainably, we also have to understand its limits and challenges and take them seriously. The following recommendations are intended to provide a guide. The ten main items describe fundamental aspects, risks and success factors that have been scientifically examined and secured. We will enrich you bit by bit with creative practical examples. We would be happy to receive as many good suggestions from you as possible.

Virtual leadership – 1 understand the social dimension of working

Many employees (part-time, older employees) are demonstrably and explicitly not working primarily for material reasons, but because of social contacts and personal appreciation. They are not interested in sitting alone at the screen at home and sending any contribution into a black hole. Also, for many employees (for example those living alone), for whom it is understandable that earning money is indispensable, the hours at work are an important part of social life. Since we need the performance contribution of these people, we must not forget their social needs.

Virtual leadership – 2 allow for mixing professional and private life, in both directions

If the boundary between professional and private dissolves, it cannot be a one-directional process. Then one has to accept that problems and disruptions arise, that were previously considered “unprofessional”. People are not homogeneous. They may have a completely different role at work than at home. One has to accept that. Therefore one has to accept, that the intrusion into the private sphere only goes to a certain limit. But mixing professional and private lives also means that private items take place during “office hours”.

Virtual leadership – 3 allow and stimulate the “informal”

So far, telephone and video conferences have created a special kind of discipline. One does not talk confused, does not interrupt, only speaks when asked. This leads to the impression that such forms of communication are more efficient than normal face-to-face meetings. This impression may even be correct in many cases, while this is also how traditional operational meetings may take place. But they only represent one form of communication and only one dimension of good leadership and cooperation. Separate platforms for informal exchange can be organized. But one can also easily integrate the informal into the “disciplined” meetings.

Virtual leadership – 4 consciously organise spontaneity

In physical cooperation, one meets by chance in the corridor, in the canteen. As a colleague or manager, one can recognise weak signals and respond to them “by chance” at the next opportunity. There are no accidental encounters in virtual communication. The spaces for such personal relationships must be organised deliberately.

Virtual leadership – 5 allow for the “provisional”

The efficient processing of specified tasks is only part of the “office work”. Innovation and creativity need space for the provisional, semi-finished, contradictory, for processes in which something correct arises from dealing with a wrong or half-wrong idea. Automatic error correction, brief comments and “likes” do not help scientific progress. All of this has always been a weakness of digital media during innovation work in the past. Forms must be found that involve more than just checking off agendas as quickly as possible.

Virtual leadership – 6 build trusting relationships

In virtual collaboration, there is even less control of what people do – unless one is building a counterproductive system of remote monitoring. This is particularly true, when it is not just a question of maintaining emergency operation in the crisis, but of creating something new. Virtual collaboration does not need less, but more trust, than traditional office collaboration. However, trust is neither an algorithm nor a tricky social technique, but a relationship between people.

Virtual leadership – 7 looking into the faces of the others

The large coronavirus experiment, in which virtual collaboration has become an exclusive form of work, has shown how important it is for people to look each other in the eye. That creates, trust, gives security, increases attention, gives non-verbal feedback and much more. The dimension of the visual cannot be overestimated. A video conference is very different from a more complicated conference call. And with stationary systems, good quality is worth its money. However, since we do not normally live in a curfew, but will mix virtual and physical cooperation, it is helpful to build trust through personal acquaintance at the start of a cooperation.

Virtual leadership – 8 strengthen personal responsibility

Instistent personal care has always been a critical point in virtual cooperation. Just as one can get lost emotionally or relationally in a virtual working world, one can also “get lost” in terms of responsibility or “weasel oneself out”. Certain management approaches absolutely adore the non-binding coming and going, garnished with inconsequential comments from a chat room. In everyday competitiveness, however, it is not about working through predefined action plans, but rather about initiating and pursuing new and unfinished topics. To do this, people have to take responsibility.

Virtual leadership – 9 handle differences differently

For certain jobs (consultants, auditors) that have previously worked independently, the change will be minimal. Employees though, who need interaction and support in terms of their function, or who are more introverted, easily fall through the rust. As everyone knows from their own experience, it is important for new employees to be taken by the hand. It is especially important to create opportunities to express concerns or counter-suggestions for employees from cultures that were reluctant about frontally criticising others .

Virtual leadership – 10 stay connected to the physical world

The coronavirus crisis has not only shown that virtual collaboration is technically possible. It also made it clear, how many people do physical work that needs to be done in a specific location (a machine, a vineyard, an operating room, a truck). There has always been suspicion among “workers”, that the “office workers” in their chic corporate headquarters have little idea of ​​this material work. In order not to intensify this estrangement, virtual employees have to maintain contact with the world of the physically working.

About the Goinger Kreis
The Goinger Kreis was founded in 2004 in Going / Tirol. Top HR managers from German companies have teamed up to provide impulses for the system work beyond operational HR work – at the interface between company and society. In the meantime, the non-profit association has become a high-ranking mixed group of thought leaders and actors – from business, science, consulting and politics. More information about the Goinger Kreis:

Translated from:

Fernverbindung. Was man aus der Corona-Krise über virtuelle Führung und Zusammenarbeit lernen kann – und was nicht.

Von Axel Klopprogge, Anne Burmeister und Franz Eichinger
Eine Studie des Goinger Kreises
Erster Zwischenbericht 8.4.2020 24 Seiten

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