Leading Virtual Teams: Do’s and Don’ts
Many managers have recently found themselves in newfound virtual leadership roles. While going remote presents challenges, don’t get discouraged. Thanks to ever-more sophisticated collaboration platforms, organizations can bring together workers in virtual teams in seamless new ways.
Many of today’s most exciting and successful products are created by virtual teams made up of top talent from a variety of different regions and countries. There are plenty of tools to serve you, and we’ve put together a list dos and don’ts to help guide your way when managing virtual teams.
Do: Be patient when things get complicated
On occasion, working virtually can make it more challenging to explain complex situations. Be patient, and if your current communication method isn’t working, be prepared to find another way to discuss the matter. For example, if email or messaging apps are creating long, drawn-out conversations with lots of misunderstandings, you might be able to cut through the noise more quickly and effectively with a phone call or video conference.
Don’t: Forget about the human element of leading virtual teams
Virtual teams rely on technology to communicate, and while this is convenient, it’s easy to lose sight of the human element, and for team members to be anonymous to one another. Yet that human element is critical in virtual teams because employees can easily become isolated and disengaged.
Spend some time getting to know your virtual team members (especially if they’ve been remotely onboarded) and check in regularly by phone or video call to talk about their work and encourage their professional development. Encourage your team to use video conferencing and add photos to their email accounts and messaging profiles to maintain a more personal touch.
Do: Manage your remote team’s cultural differences
When leading a virtual team, your team members may come from vastly different backgrounds, cultures, and living situations. It’s important to be prepared for communication challenges that may arise as a result of language barriers or differences in etiquette. To facilitate clear and respectful interactions between team members, it can be helpful to create a set of guidelines and share them with the team.
Don’t: Overload team members with new technologies
New collaboration apps are being produced every day—but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all. In fact, constantly switching from one platform to another or adding new apps to the mix can quickly overwhelm and frustrate team members. A better strategy is to find one powerful platform that offers all the features you need and provide all team members with adequate training and support to use it with ease. And if you utilize multiple tools, be sure to define expectations about how they should each be used.
Do: Help teams establish routines
While virtual work allows us to collaborate across time zones without the confines of a typical workday, it’s important to acknowledge that having irregular schedules and unclear expectations can contribute to employee burnout, confusion, and poor performance. Make schedule expectations clear surrounding availability so your remote employees can plan their days as if they were in the office. The combination of flexibility and clarity empowers workers to plan their most productive days.
Don’t: Forget to establish a virtual meeting protocol your team members can count on
As Star Dargin explains in her Corporate Education Group article titled “Top 6 Best Practices for Managing Virtual Teams,” poor meeting practices cost U.S. organizations as much as $37 billion each year. Nevertheless, meetings are critical for collaboration and progress. Create a set meeting structure, along with a list of best practices, and adhere to it at each meeting. Make sure that everyone knows how and when to contribute to the conversation, and always ask for final thoughts.
With the above tips as a guide, you can gain a deeper appreciation of the talents your virtual team members have to offer. Then, by combining those personal insights with patience, structure, and motivation, there’s no telling how much your team can accomplish.
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