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How to Create Accountability in Virtual Teams Without Micromanaging

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By Abou Kassoum O.

We know that many companies and businesses were already utilizing virtual work and my firm was assisting them with transitioning to a new job trend with the booming of remote workers commonly called DIGITAL NOMADS. And during the global crisis, due to covid-19, the change has been drastic for both employers and employees. Therefore, the most important concern for most employers has been “how to keep teams motivated and productive? And, also how to manage the outcome of an employee’s actions or behaviors?”

In other words, how to create accountability in virtual teams without micromanaging?

I am sure that this question has been asked over and over again. That is why I would like to start with this quote: “If you’re asking yourself how to supervise your remote workforce, you’ve already lost the battle.” Anytime I have the opportunity and the privilege to speak publicly or give a workshop in a corporate environment where they have remote workers, I start with this quote because it’s really deep and full of meaning.

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Abou Kassoum O.

Let’s take the case of Global Team managers or coordinators. The question here could be: “How challenging is it to manage global teams remotely?”  In addressing this question, I would like to highlight some fundamental points that are important for all managers. Locally, nationally, regionally, or globally, no matter from which level you are dealing with your team, we all have to face almost the same constraints or challenge linked to cultural factors, locations, language issues, time zones, IT abilities, productivity, and other things such as gender biases and so on.

Now, as a virtual manager, how do you avoid getting stuck in micromanagement situations while dealing with your virtual team? 

First, make sure that you first know or understand the spirit of your team. From there, your task should be to identify where they are living or located and organize your meetings and activities accordingly. So, if you have to deal with a global team, then look for a way to reorganize things a bit. For example, at AIESEC Alumni International which is a worldwide organization within around 128 countries and territories, what we have done is to have the world segmented into five (5) Regions. My role as global program manager is to deal more with regional heads for most of our activities. Not only has this strategy helped us to be more productive in our respective tasks, but it has also provided our remote teams with ways to reinforce their self-confidence as well taking some regional, national, and local initiatives. 

All those things are flowing under motivation, because it’s a non-profit organization, and almost all the members are business owners or employees somewhere in the world. There is no salary as opposed to other activities where people are getting paid to do them. 

Some people may stay in their job because at the end of the month because they will receive a paycheck… But, if you can make your teammates work and be productive under voluntarism, imagine your work delivery when you have motivation and a paycheck on the table? However, you need to keep in mind that two important abilities are required.

What are the two key skills or abilities required to effectively deal with your virtual teamwork delivery without getting into a day–to–day management or micromanagement?

Leadership and Management abilities are more than required in every work or task we deal with. But, if you lack or confuse those two in your virtual activities, then you will be sure  to  find yourself surprised at any moment. So, let’s see the difference between those two concepts, and then adapt them to your reality as a responsible virtual team. 

Leadership is still and remains one of the inevitable skillsets for the success of the team. It deals with things such as vision, values, purpose, and goals within the organization. It’s all about where we are heading and how we should get there.

To keep your team motivated and do their jobs autonomously, make sure to have some communication with your team members apart from work. From time-to-time, check in with them about their family and friends. In other words, check on their support system. In addition, build trust by showing them you believe in them to manage their respective responsibilities. Then, keep demonstrating compassion and empathy. In the process, they will discover how much they can count on you and the organization. Because they matter, their ideas matter, too. Continually practice team building to motivate the team, and to develop an important virtue called patience. You need to keep in mind that all your team members may not have the same abilities and velocity for the delivery of their tasks. Sometimes, have some conversations with them individually from time-to-time where you don’t talk about work but personal things or even nothing. All those contributions mentioned above will help you grow stronger leadership help develop a cohesive team. 

Then we have Management, which is the complementary ability to make your leadership more effective. Management deals with the tools, tesources, agenda, finances, and logistics needed at each level of the journey. After you have explored and understood your virtual team, you need to find out the way to support them with the major THINGS that will help them understand the signs of the path you are taking together. In other words, it’s about what is needed, and how we interconnect those things that are necessary to make our work more effective and efficient and accomplish our goals. 

Make sure that you LEAD more and MANAGE less. Allow your team members to have opportunities to share things and learn from them. By doing so, not only you are proving to them that you trust them for the tasks, but it also reinforces their self-confidence around what needs to be done, and they feel more committed. They own the job and take it seriously! So, you get to the level where your role is to just to coordinate and facilitate things while tracking your team’s performance and progress. 

It’s all about creating a synergic environment where Leadership and Management create the path for each team member by helping them understand what they should be doing at each level of the journey! When it’s done well, it allows the virtual team to be more efficient and effective in their task executions on TIME.  

How do you create synergy among virtual teammates? 

Not only all the things discussed above will create a synergetic but a relaxed working environment, and of course, it makes your team more united and more productive without feeling like: “anytime you reach out to them is to just talk about work and you do not care about their well-being.”

Personally, what I do with my team is that sometimes I just call someone and discuss anything else apart from work topics. For example, you can ask them their opinion or point of view around any particular project, an activity that you might be working on, or thinking to implement in the near future. In that way, they feel more involved and they take more responsibility while committing to the current project. In other words, the best way to develop accountability in a virtual environment is to involve all your stakeholders by making sure that all of them have that same level of understanding about needs to be done. 

In fact, the level of involvement and commitment of your virtual team depends on the type of communication and vision transmission you developed in the beginning. If those things above-mentioned are efficient, they will not only save you more time and energy that you can “re-invest” somewhere else, but also avoid getting into day-to-day management, which involves keeping you away from micromanagement. 

You can’t even deal with all those time zones, cultural, and language gaps! It’s simply impossible and a bad time management investment!

At the end, this is one of the best ways on How  you create accountability in virtual teams without micromanaging!

It was a pleasure sharing this content with you, and I hope you enjoyed reading it, too. I would be happier reading from you and learning from your experience as well. Or rather, how do you deal with your remote team without getting into a day-to-day management? 


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