Technology has changed the way we work. Today there are more teams that work virtually than ever before. People work from home and a working team can be spread out geographically. A team could consist of employees with a manager leader or it could be a group of associates who are independent contractors. It could even be all volunteers in a volunteer organization.
Regardless of the composition of the team, the things needed to create traditional high performing teams also apply to virtual teams. It needs to have a visionary and motivating leader combined with engaged and dedicated team members. These team members need to have a strong motivation for achievement of their goals. Moreover, the team’s goal AND the members’ individual goals must be aligned. Just because people don’t meet together in a physical location does not mean that there can’t be a culture of accountability. Every team and every leader needs to set the example and set the standard for the team to follow. The points are the same for virtual teams as they are for traditional team. Here are a few of the most important things to remember.
1. Have written goals with timetables and deadlines. Each team member must know exactly what the objectives are. They must have short term goals, intermediate goals, and long terms goals with deadlines.
2. Use measurements. Use a tool to share measurements online. There are many available. Actions must be measured as to how they contribute to the desired results. What is the desired result of every action and how will you measure it? The measurement should be shared with the individual team members so that they can assess their progress.
3. Schedule regular one to one meetings by phone, Skype, Google Hangout or whatever works. Regular updates are important. You should utilize a standard format. Include progress updates and freely welcome discussion of obstacles and solutions.
4. Make use of technology to share information online. Keep regular online contact with everyone. Evernote is a great program for this. You can download it. There is a free and paid version. When you use this for field work and updates you will be able to tell if someone is checked out or not holding up their end.
5. Schedule regular team meetings online. Google Hangout can be used for up to nine people. Assign different parts of the meeting to others. Engage everyone by including all in the discussion and asking questions of everyone.
6. Finally, everyone needs face time. You need to schedule occasional physical get-togethers.
Trust is essential. In the case of remotely functioning teams developing trust must not be forgotten or pushed to the wayside. Your team must feel free to ask questions with the confidence they will receive support and the necessary information. An effective leader must insure that everyone is informed and that he or she is “in on things.” You can make it happen with virtual teams but you must sharpen your leadership skills and recognize that what you do in an office must be translated into its virtual version.
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