Discussing this fourth tip should be made part of the pre-construction meetings. There should be a very clear lining out of the type of decisions that will be made at the individual project and who is responsible for what actions. For the virtual leader the types of decisions made by one project team of leaders might differ from another project team. Thus, what is considered 85% - 10% - 5% for one leader may be different, and supported, by another leader. If necessary, and it will probably be necessary, the virtual leader and his "satellite" project teams should document as many examples of each percentage of decision making type so there is little to no confusion on direction.
Virtual Tip No. 5
Maintain Regular but "Spontaneous" Personal Visits
Depending on how far away your crews or projects are located you still need to make some visits in person. There is still nothing like having the "boss" show up, especially un-announced, to the site. The spontaneity of the visits actually raises the bar a bit on the project leaders to keep a better organized, clean and safe environment, not just spruce things up in preparing for a site visit. It is also important to not only make such visits when there has been something bad that has happened or when some outstanding action or milestone has been reached. While there is certainly nothing wrong with visiting in these two last situations, your personal visits should be done however at less than obvious times. This tends to keep a bit more honesty within the process and players.
"Pre-Virtual" Tip - Get the Right Virtually Led People Involved to Begin!
Sorry, but I just couldn't let us close out the article without stating what may be obvious but can be difficult to fulfill. Putting the right people on any project is critical but it is doubly critical for the virtual leader leading crews and projects "cross country." Not every individual can work without regular and visible leadership. Most employees complain about being micro-managed however many of the same complainers are often the first to go lazy and become confused over the easiest of issues...without their immediate leader close by for reassurance. This type of employee must be highly scrutinized before placing them on a project or crew in a "far, far, far, away" place to work.
Leading crews and projects, virtually, is hard - very hard - but not impossible. However, there are several extra efforts that a virtual leader will need to make in order to stay on top of their performance. Remember, "out of sight; out of mind," is quite common in this industry. A virtual leader must overcome such thinking and this will require first that the leader put the tips shared in this article to work for them and those whom they will be leading...virtually!
Brad Humphrey is Co-Founder of GangBox, Inc., a full service provider of consulting services and training materials for the construction industry. Brad continues to speak at some of the largest construction conferences around, including the World of Concrete (For the fourteenth year!) as well as maintaining a consulting relationship with construction companies in the United States, Canada, and now Australia. For more information go to www.gangboxinc.com.