More than 50 percent of organizations currently use virtual teams in their operations.
Effectively leading teams of people who don't work in the same physical space has become one of the key indicators for business success, yet many leaders have not had training on best practices for managing virtual teams.
Here are five tips:
1. Spend time on the who
This is the human side of your team and your business. Even if your team sees each other twice a year, understanding what each team member values can make a difference.
If you operate across countries or cultures, consider a tool such as GlobeSmart to begin the conversation about cultural styles, differences and preferences.
Who you are as a team includes your vision, purpose and legacy. Including the entire team in these conversations ensures ongoing engagement.
2. Spend time on the how
How will you work together? How will you make the decisions? How will you handle conflict? How often will you get together? Which technology will you use to connect virtually?
3. Process is your friend
In the past, when you managed people who worked under the same roof, telling them why and how they should connect with each other would fall under the heading of micromanagement. This isn’t the case with your virtual team. Remove any confusion about member roles and responsibilities and create opportunities for collaboration across different business functions.
Take people out of their comfort zones and help them to build trust. Consider implementing peer-to-peer coaching calls so team members can share wins or ask each other for input on tough issues.
4. Guard the agenda fiercely
Avoid the temptation to have each team member stand up and “download” on their piece of the business during precious face-to-face time. This sharing of data and updates can be accomplished during team calls or via emailed updates prior to the meeting.
Agree that agenda items must affect the entire team to make the cut and ask for suggested agenda items before each team meeting to avoid death by PowerPoint.
When the team does gather face-to-face, leave some time for personal interaction! I have seen too many teams opt for the working lunch, only to hear comments such as “we never got time to talk” on their way out the door.
5. Make space for innovation
We all need time to gaze out the window in order to think creatively, and this applies doubly to teams. Leave some free time on the agenda for brainstorming and blue-sky conversations. Create a process for the sharing of wild ideas and provide this opportunity to every single person in the organization.
Between meetings, set up learning circles and ask people to think creatively outside of their area of expertise. Think about asking a team member who is a subject matter guru to host a learning circle and consider inviting people from other teams — or even more creatively, invite a customer or a competitor!
This article was originally published by Angela Love in The Business Journals.