Embracing virtual teams is a must for any manager in today’s age of home-based workers. The days of Monday to Friday, nine to five are over.
Running a virtual team requires a careful, creative, tailored approach.
An effective team manager now needs to be tech savvy, results-oriented and have a clear grasp of the cultures, skill sets and potential of their entire team. There’s a ton of stumbling blocks.
Running a virtual team requires a careful, creative, tailored approach. Remote team members face unique challenges at every stage of their development and performance cycle. Yet, as with conventional teams, there is no greater opportunity for building an effective virtual team than at its start-up. Start strong, finish strong.
With over a thousand successfully completed remote projects around the globe, we at Virtira have a lot of experience to draw from. Here are some of the ways we create a high- performance remote team:
Before starting work on any project, make sure that you and your stakeholders are both crystal clear about what a successful project will look like. If your key stakeholders have unrealistic expectations, you’re going to disappoint them, and they will feel unsatisfied with the results. Make sure that all team members understand the short-term, mid-term and ultimate goals of the project. Let them know what success looks like. Keep everyone engaged and focused and goals will be met.
Organization is the key here. Use a RACI or other organization software to manage each stakeholder's responsibilities so that everyone can see what needs to be done and by when. Enlist one point-person whose job is to remind everyone to get those things done. It's a simple to follow, indispensable way to keep projects on time, on track and on budget.
This can be tough. It’s hard to create a corporate culture remotely. Get to know as much as you can about each team member. Assign mentors to new people. Use informal conversations right before video meetings as a solid substitute for traditional office “water-cooler” chit-chat.
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Make sure all team members are using the same collaboration tools. Standardized, repeatable systems are the best way of getting people on the same page. It will also unify the work processes and enhance the feeling of togetherness so crucial to a strong, cohesive team. Encourage the use of video conferencing apps such a Webex or Zoom instead of emails for communication of ideas.
Don’t meet just to have a meeting! Regular online meetings are a way to create a sense of urgency; a “ticking clock”. Team members who know they’ll need to present status updates will make sure they are prepared. Make sure to have someone tasked to keep the meeting on track, take notes and follow up actions. Introducing routines builds office walls that remote work lacks.
Don’t have everyone on camera because you think it’ll increase engagement. It won’t. In a normal meeting setting, people aren’t staring at each other across a table. They are listening, taking notes. It is just as easy to multi-task on camera as off, so save the bandwidth. All you’re doing by having the camera on is adding more distraction.
Any virtual team is bound to have some people separated by time zones. Do your best to figure out ways to rotate meeting times to make it easier for those people to work more comfortable hours. No one likes to be the “night owl” all the time. Regardless of time zones, make sure you’ve got some team members working at the same time. Brainstorming and problem solving will be easier and faster when there are people available as sounding boards.
An international team will not interpret all communication the same way. What may seem curt and rude to one team member may simply be that accepted manner in another country. Learning, sharing and training each team member’s “modus operandi” will keep misunderstandings to a minimum and it’ll help build the team dynamics.
Keep an eye on your team’s hours. Are you getting communications from them 24/7? Virtual workers aiming to impress their boss can burn themselves out by never taking time off. Encourage your staff to balance their work and their life in a healthy, sensible way. Time tracking will also let you see whose workload may be too light or too heavy.
This is Tip #1 from a Forbes Magazine blog from a few years ago. Let your team know that you’re there to help them both professionally and informally. You don’t want them to feel isolated or unable to reach out to you if they’re having trouble with something. Be a mentor and a friend and the bonds between you and your team will strengthen.
Managing a virtual team is a big challenge, but if you take the time to properly prepare, hire the right people and organize, organize, organize, there’s no reason you can’t be a great leader.
Virtira is a virtual company managing large remote projects. We specialize in making virtual teams work better! Reach out and let us know about your challenges. We look forward to hearing from you.