Leading Virtual Teams: Do’s and Don’ts
Due to increasing globalization and a continuous wave of ever-more sophisticated collaboration platforms, organizations now have the ability to bring together workers in virtual teams, regardless of where they’re located. In fact, 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—countries, even! However, leading a virtual team requires a different approach from onsite team leadership. Keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind:
- Do be aware of potential cultural differences. When leading a virtual team, your team members may come from vastly different backgrounds and cultures. 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 forget about the human element. Virtual teams rely on technology to communicate, and while this is convenient, it’s easy to lose sight of the human element. Yet that human element is critical in virtual teams because employees can easily become isolated and disengaged. Spend some time getting to know your team members, and check in once or twice a month by phone or Skype to see how they’re doing and if there are any concerns.
- Don’t constantly 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.
- 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 you’re unable to explain something over the phone, it can be helpful to clarify it an email with bullet points.
- Don’t forget to establish a virtual meeting protocol that 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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