As my workday begins, I pop into our Facebook group, my team’s virtual water cooler, to say good morning. I often add the request: Let me know how I can serve you today. As I do it, it feels, at times, like an empty offer.
My team is scattered across several time zones. We are each working from our home offices, on varying schedules. What does it mean to serve a dispersed, virtual team?
How can I live out the values of servant leadership in directing my team day to day? This is a work in progress, and I am daily working out the answer. Here are a few ways I’ve found to serve my virtual team:
Communication – Virtual workers want to feel connected, and sharing information consistently is one way to serve them. What do people want to know? What helpful information can I provide to help them be successful in their work? One way I communicate is with a regular Monday morning email, outlining the priorities for the week ahead. It’s the first thing I do when I arrive at work on Mondays and it sets the pace for communication.
Availability – I can serve my team by making myself available to help them in their day to day work. This is tricky, though, because they can’t just pop their heads into my office and plop down on my couch for a chat. Nor can I guarantee availability to contractors in different time zones; one of our team members is working in China this month, which means we have to get very creative to find a time to connect by voice. To me, being available to my virtual team is not about instant or all the time, it’s about making time for people.
Encouragement – A well-timed text message, tweet, or handwritten note is another way I can serve my virtual team. I give thoughtful consideration to ensure I reach out to team members over time. I can’t possibly reach out to every team member each day — or even each week — but I look for ways to recognize people’s hard work and contributions to our work.
Creating Opportunities – Perhaps the most significant way I serve my virtual team is by working to create a stable, viable business to provide work they enjoy. Though this seems obvious, creating opportunities for people to do work they love is the first action that makes the others possible. As I put my head down to grow this business every day, my work is service to the team. Every day, I choose to work in service to the team and our shared goals.
The intention to serve frames my days. I want to be one of a new breed of servant leaders, who finds ways to serve my dispersed team, with excellence.