So many of us are now being called upon to lead teams that are distributed across the country and the globe. And we must do so in a way that ensures inclusion, regardless of location, to get the best ideas, best collaboration, and best business results.
I experienced this first hand, working fully remotely for eight years while leading large teams that were responsible for more than $250 million in business and were mostly located three time zones away.
The rise of geographically distributed teams (also known as hybrid or virtual teams) is being driven by acquisitions and mergers, real estate cost savings, and talent acquisition, retention, and engagement needs. A very common team anatomy has now become: a majority group that is co-located together, with a minority group co-located in a different office or offices, plus a few fully remote members peppered in.
Also, due to the importance of inclusion and diversity, the topic of unconscious bias has been raised to the forefront within many companies. The NeuroLeadership Institute identified five unconscious biases that impact decision making. They call it the SEEDS model.
Have you ever felt out of sight and out of mind? Or have you found yourself forgetting to provide an important piece of info to a person on your team who is not in the same location as you? Well, that’s what the “D” in SEEDS stands for: Distance Bias—our brain’s natural tendency to put more importance on things and people that are closer to us than farther away. This Distance Bias can become a key factor in holding back distributed teams.
The first step to overcoming Distance Bias is awareness. Just recognizing that the Distance Bias exists, and being able to label it when it creeps in, will go a long way to reducing it.
Once your team is aware, here are some steps to mitigate Distance Bias, whether you are a people manager, team leader, or a member of a distributed team:
If you are a manager
If you are a team leader or team member
Enable virtual attendees to participate equally in team meetings.
Build team culture and relationships virtually.
For more advice on leading geographically distributed (virtual) teams, please check out my Virtual Work Insider website. I would love to hear any other tips you have for leading virtual teams in the comments section below.