The Secret to Virtual Teamwork



COVID-19 has forced most employees across the world to work from home since March of 2020. As a result, leaders have been scrambling to figure out how to foster effective teamwork in this new virtual reality.

How can this new “working from home freedom” be leveraged so that team members tap into new levels of engagement and motivation? At the same time, how can they ensure that work is still being done effectively and productivity remains high, when they only see team members occasionally through Zoom calls?

Although COVID-19 is putting the tension between freedom and accountability to the test, it’s always been a wrestling match in organizations. When leaders can tap into this tension in a healthy way, effective teamwork is sure to follow.

As this graphic illustrates, there are aspects of high-performance teamwork that come from both giving freedom and holding accountable; and, there are negative results that are inevitable if you overdo one side to the neglect of the other.

Slide1 freedom

How Well Is Your Team Doing?

Reflect on how your team has worked over these past few months. Have team members had the freedom needed to truly leverage their strengths and get things done in their own creative way? Have systems and structures been in place to provide accountability, ensuring deadlines are met and work is being done with excellence? Take a look at the graphic on the following page and assess which of the four quadrants you are currently living in.

Slide2 freedom

The Leader’s RoleGIVE FREEDOM

  • Develop a strategy to learn the unique strengths, skills and passions of each team member so you can increasingly give them more freedom to work in their sweet spot.
  • Ensure that team members have the tools, technology and resources to succeed with their individual responsibilities.


  • Ensure deadlines and deliverables from each team member are clear, agreed upon, and shared with all team members.
  • Schedule short, weekly check-ins with each team member to ensure they have what they need to succeed and encourage them in their independent projects.

Next Steps…

This week, engage your team in the conversation. Introduce them to the concept of Freedom AND Accountability by walking them through the two graphics above (click here to download graphics). Then spend some time brainstorming answers to the four questions below.


  • What is something we can start, stop or continue doing to gain or maintain the positive results of Freedom?
  • What is something we can start, stop or continue doing to gain or maintain the positive results of Accountability?


  • What are signs and indicators that Freedom is being overdone to the neglect of Accountability?
  • What are signs and indicators that Accountability is being overdone to the neglect of Freedom?


Tim Arnold is passionate about helping leaders increase their resilience and deliver results.  He is the author of The Power of Healthy Tension and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can leverage tension for team, leadership, and organizational success.

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