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Leading teams in lockdown – embracing virtual teamworking

By Sarah Ballantyne, Principal Consultant.

Two weeks into Covid-19 lockdown and I was feeling the strain. Yet another email had just arrived in my inbox, offering loads of great reading on working remotely. I had the first sense of the irony that in this polarised world, those of us who are working don’t have time to read. While those who have the time to read aren’t having to work. This is even before you factor in the additional demands of juggling work and home, especially those with kids!

Later that day during a team meeting, exasperation shattered my normal calm. My head was exploding with all the talk about setting up a process to consult clients about what they needed when there was, for me, a huge urgency to act with pace: get in a new virtual offer on the table, or miss the boat!

A week on, I’m feeling more reflective about what’s been going in our newly virtual team. Drawing on the polarity management concept, we are experiencing ‘amplified polarities’ in our virtual team dynamic.

Simplistically, any team needs 3 things to build a climate of trust and confidence 1. a clear purpose 2. processes for connection & coordination and 3. to fully utilise the skills of team members. Under pressure and whilst also rapidly adapting to working remotely, our teams’ differences have been amplified around these polarities:

Each of the above opposites are equally valid and yet they create daily tensions – how to get the best of both ends of the polarities?

This is a key role for the virtual team’s leader: to embrace the tensions by carefully listening to the opposing ideas and then creatively exploring with the team approaches that integrate solutions for both ends of the polarity. Then, enable team members to play to their differing strengths: use the technical skills of one to support the creative writing skills of another; pair up facilitators where one focuses on structure and process and the other on depth of insight and meaning making. In this way, intra-team collaboration and integration will be the strongest path for robust and resilient team strategies.

What is your recent experience of leading your team virtually? We’d love to hear from you.

If you can, join us at our Let’s Talk session on this topic coming up on Wednesday 6th May at 4pm. You can sign up for the free Let's Talk here or if you have any questions please contact us here

In Taylor Clarke we have built a new Covid-19 section to our web page for blogs, tools, resources and new virtual programmes to support managers and leaders in these challenging times. You can check it out here.


Sarah works for Taylor Clarke and is based in Glasgow, UK. She is an experienced facilitator, manager and coach with 30 years experience in Human Resources and consultancy.  She has also been a Chair of the Board of Directors of a Scottish charity.


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