Virtual teams are on the rise! The numerous benefits of telecommuting (flexible schedules, no commute, fewer sick days) don’t come without their share of challenges, however. Leaders of virtual teams have to work diligently to keep their groups on task while navigating any potential problems to lead their team to success despite their geographic limitations.
Some keys to success for virtual leaders are:
- Help members build real relationships. Just because you aren’t meeting at an office everyday doesn’t mean that you can’t get to know one another. A whopping 90 percent of virtual team members feel like they don’t have enough time during meetings to form valuable bonds with their colleagues – that’s a real problem. Sometimes letting members chat before important discussions about projects can help build their rapport with each other by letting them have genuine and leisurely interactions. This will help them trust each other, as well as you, as the assignments continue.
- Provide your team with a clear purpose and goals. Just as you would with an on-site team, your virtual team should be briefed on the goals of the organization and the big picture – the mission. This can help to skirt a large percentage of problems that could occur when it comes to organizing and prioritizing tasks, how members will handle certain responsibilities and the way your team communicates with one another. As the leader, you will always be the example to follow so clear and honest dialogue with the individuals on your team is encouraged and absolutely necessary.
- Shock, amaze and engage your group. You want to present your team with information they can use to reach your goals, as well as something interesting and interactive to keep them motivated and engaged on your journey to success. This could be done several ways. Polls and group chats are popular and are fabulous ways to get the opinions of the team in a healthy manner. One-on-one coaching could also be valuable if an individual on the team needs some direct contact regarding their assignment that they might not otherwise receive in a group debriefing. The method of communication/interactions within your group has to be right for what you want to accomplish and for the chemistry of the team. All people do not work the same way or have the same motivators, and that should be taken into consideration to find the right method for your team. Observe some of the factors at work when you reach small goals or when the group is hitting its stride, and keep that momentum going.
- Make sure you equip your group with what they need to succeed. Seventy-three percent of team leaders and other members aren’t satisfied with the training they received on their virtual team. That’s a pretty high percentage. If you don’t know better, you can’t do better, so you must take the initiative at every turn to make sure that your team has been properly trained and truly understands what you all have set out to accomplish. You should ask questions, take notes and check on the progress whenever possible. It doesn’t hurt to ask someone if he or she feels good about the work that is being done and if they could use some help. It will only help your team and your organization in the long run.
It can be rough for virtual leaders to lead a team that is comprised of such diverse backgrounds and experiences. Motivation, dedication and confidence of a team leader will be the difference between mediocrity and an outstanding team dynamic. With these key factors in mind, you can lead your team to a successful project despite any distance.