“I’ve led a virtual team in the creation and launch of [a website] for the past 18 months.” ] I am located in Toronto, Canada. The website was designed in Zagreb, Croatia. The software was developed in St. John’s, Newfoundland; Zagreb, Croatia; Delhi, India; and Los Angeles, USA. The majority of the correspondence took place via email, with occasional Skype conversations. This past December, I had one face-to-face meeting with the team leader for the technology development. ”.
Could this be you? On June 10, 2013, I started a discussion on LinkedIn about this topic: “Virtual teams have become a fact of business life. What does it take to make them work effectively?” The outcome was a flood of knowledge and suggestions for facilitating successful virtual teams. (I define “virtual teams” as work groups that (1) have some core members who primarily interact through electronic means and (2) are engaged in interdependent tasks — i e. are truly teams and not just groups of independent workers). In order to better understand how new leaders should evaluate and align their teams in their first 90 days, I condensed the findings and combined them with my own research. Because that’s when it’s crucial to set the stage for superior performance in teams, whether they’re virtual or not. Here are ten basic principles for making this happen:
1. Get the team together physically early-on. In a post about virtual teams, it may seem paradoxical to state that face-to-face communication is still superior to virtual when it comes to developing relationships and fostering trust, two factors that are crucial for productive teamwork. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t do it; instead, concentrate on developing your virtual team. However, if you can gather the team, make use of the time to help the individuals get to know one another better on a personal and professional level. You should also use this time to develop a shared vision and a set of guiding principles for the team’s operation. If possible, arrange the in-person meeting early on and stay in touch frequently (semi-annually or annually).
2. Clarify tasks and processes, not just goals and roles. Within the first 90 days, all new leaders must set clear team objectives and assign roles and responsibilities. However, because people are not physically present, coordination is inherently more difficult with virtual teams. Because of this, it’s crucial to pay closer attention to the specifics of task design and the procedures that will be used to complete them. Simplify the work as much as you can, ideally by assigning tasks to subgroups of two or three team members. Additionally, ensure that the work process is clear, with details regarding who does what and when. Afterward, conduct periodic “after-action reviews” to assess how things are going and determine any process changes or training requirements.
3. Commit to a communication charter. When compared to face-to-face interaction, which offers more contextual cues and information about emotional states, such as engagement or lack thereof, communication on virtual teams is frequently less frequent and always less rich. The only way to avoid the pitfalls is for the team to communicate in a very disciplined and clear manner. Make a charter that outlines acceptable behaviors for those attending virtual meetings, such as keeping background noise and side conversations to a minimum, speaking clearly and at a reasonable pace, paying attention to the conversation without interrupting it, and so on. The charter should also contain instructions on when to use specific forms of communication, such as when to reply via email as opposed to picking up the phone or spending the time to create and share a document.
4. Leverage the best communication technologies. Virtual teaming is undoubtedly becoming simpler thanks to advancements in collaborative technologies, such as multi-point video conferencing and shared workspaces. But choosing the “best” technologies does not always mean choosing the most recent or feature-rich options. It’s critical to avoid sacrificing dependability in the pursuit of being cutting edge. The whole project suffers if the team has trouble connecting or spends too much time getting the collaboration suite to function. So err on the side of robustness. Additionally, be prepared to give up some features so that everyone can use the same systems. Otherwise, you risk creating second-class team members and undermining effectiveness.
5. Build a team with rhythm. It’s all-too-easy to become disconnected from the regular rhythms of work life when some or all of a team is working separately. One remedy is to establish and strictly enforce rhythms when working in virtual teams. For instance, this entails holding consistent meetings, ideally on the same day and time each week. Additionally, it entails creating and distributing meeting agendas beforehand, coming to clear agreements regarding communication protocols, and beginning and ending meetings on time. Instead of putting all the time-zone burden on a few team members if they work in different time zones, establish a regular rotation of meeting times to distribute the load fairly.
6. Agree on a shared language. The communication difficulties are made worse by the fact that virtual teams are frequently cross-cultural teams. This is especially true when team members mistakenly believe they are speaking the same language. George Bernard Shaw famously referred to Americans and Britons as “two nations divided by a common language” in one of his plays. His line perfectly expresses the difficulty in maintaining intercultural understanding. The languages of science and engineering frequently provide a strong foundation for effective communication when the area of teamwork is technical. Divergent interpretations are a real risk when teams work on tasks with more ambiguity, such as coming up with ideas or solving problems (for an example, see this Anglo-Dutch translation guide). Spend the time to clearly negotiate agreement on how important words and phrases should be understood by everyone, such as when we say “yes,” we mean…, and when we say “no,” we mean…, and post this in the collaborative workspace.
7. Create a “virtual water cooler. “Informal interactions that share information and strengthen social ties are metaphorically represented by coworkers congregating around a water cooler. Team meetings frequently become very task-focused without explicit attempts to establish a “virtual water cooler,” which means crucial information may not be shared and team cohesion may suffer. One easy way to prevent this is to begin each meeting with a check-in and ask each participant to briefly describe their current activities, including any successes and difficulties. Another way to make things a little more enjoyable is to conduct regular virtual team-building exercises. Additionally, shared workspaces and social networking capabilities are increasingly being combined by enterprise collaboration platforms to foster a sense of community among team members.
8. Clarify and track commitments. Management Time, Who’s Got the Monkey?, a classic HBR article by William Oncken and Donald L Wass urges leaders to delegate responsibility to their teams by using the metaphor of “who has the monkey on their back” However, this is inherently more challenging when teams work remotely because it is more difficult to monitor engagement and productivity. As mentioned earlier, this can be partially resolved by planning tasks carefully and holding regular status meetings. Additionally, it is beneficial to be explicit in obtaining team members’ commitments to establish interim milestones and monitor their progress. A “deliverables dashboard” that is accessible to all team members on whichever collaborative hub they are using is one practical tool. But if you do this, be careful not to resort to virtual micromanagement. Between proper commitment tracking and overbearing (and demoralizing) oversight, there is a fine line.
9. Foster shared leadership. To maintain team members’ focus and productivity, deliverable definition and commitment tracking provide “push,” while shared leadership provides essential “pull.” ” Find ways to involve others in leading the team. Examples include giving team members responsibility for special projects like identifying and sharing best practices, or asking them to coach others in their areas of expertise, or designating them as mentors to help onboard new team members, or asking them to lead an online exercise to foster teamwork. By delegating leadership, you’ll not only boost participation but also relieve some of your own pressure.
10. Don’t forget the 1:1s. Making any team work effectively depends on leaders’ one-on-one performance management and coaching interactions with team members. Make these exchanges a regular part of your virtual team’s rhythm, using them not only to check in on progress and offer feedback but also to keep team members motivated and to highlight how they contribute to “the story” of what you are doing as a team.
Last but not least, if you are inheriting a team, spend time learning how your predecessor led it. No matter whether their teams are virtual or not, it is imperative that newly appointed leaders take this action. Because, in the words of Confucius, “study the past to define the future,” When you inherit a virtual team, it’s even more crucial to complete this homework because of the enormous influence that the structures and procedures used to manage communication and coordinate work have on team performance. These ten guidelines can be used as a checklist to diagnose how the previous team leader managed the group and to help you decide what needs to get done in the first 90 days.
Making Virtual Teams Work [REMOTE TEAM BEST PRACTICES]
What is the importance of managing virtual teams?
It’s crucial to have virtual team management strategies for a number of reasons, including:
What are virtual teams?
Virtual teams are groups of workers who meet primarily online and conduct the majority of their communications through digital channels. These digital platforms could include project management tools, email, direct messaging platforms, and other communication-simplifying technologies. The majority of virtual teams are made up of remote workers, as well as outside contractors and freelancers that your company has hired. Teams can work remotely without physically coming together because many professionals can complete much of their work from the comfort of their home office.
How to go about managing virtual teams
To ensure that your remote workers and contractors succeed at your business, follow these guidelines for managing virtual teams:
1. Get to know your team members
There are still ways to get to know your team members even if you two have never actually met. Introduce new hires to the group when you bring them on board. To get a sense of who they are, ask them some personal questions. You could even ask them to respond to a fun questionnaire about their favorite foods or future travel destinations. Encourage conversation among team members to make new hires feel welcome.
2. Establish consistent communication
Try to communicate with your team members at least once a day to establish a regular line of communication. Inform them that you are available to respond to their inquiries or even just have a brief conversation. Create a system for your communication to stay organized. For instance, you might ask team members to message you directly if they have a one-time question. You could request that they send you an email if they have a more detailed concern.
3. Be open to richer forms of communication
Although email and direct messages are very useful, you should occasionally use more sophisticated forms of communication. A phone call can help you and a team member get to know one another better and facilitate more in-depth conversations. You can even hold meetings using video conferencing software so that everyone can see and hear each other and understand each other’s nonverbal cues and voice inflections. Better understanding and stronger connections may result from this richer communication.
4. Conduct performance reviews
Since you can observe what your coworkers are doing when you work in person, it might be simpler to evaluate your performance. Performance evaluations are beneficial for virtual teams because they can help your staff members comprehend their development. Set up a meeting with each of your remote workers to go over their advantages and disadvantages. To help them produce better work, talk to them about their career objectives and lay out your expectations.
5. Hold team-building activities
There are many ways to promote camaraderie among remote workers. Think about hosting a game of trivia or another entertaining online activity that everyone can enjoy. Even using a video chat to communicate with one another can improve your connections. A different suggestion is to publish a weekly icebreaker in your group chat. Employees might enjoy revealing personal information to their team. Here are a few fun questions you can ask:
6. Find the right systems and tools
Remote teams can use a variety of project management tools and communication platforms to improve their workflow. You may have access to a variety of tools and resources as remote work becomes more prevalent. Spend some time locating the ideal tools for your team’s requirements. Make a list of the benefits and features you want while also taking your company’s budget into account. There may be specialty software or systems available to suit your needs.
7. Define working hours
It’s possible to have team members in various time zones when working with virtual teams. Because of this, it’s critical to communicate your desired work schedule to your employees. To make sure that your team members’ workdays at least slightly overlap, you might ask employees to begin their shifts between certain times. This can be helpful for communication and collaboration purposes. Try to attend scheduled meetings if your workplace has a more flexible work schedule to foster a sense of teamwork.