Virtual Team Tips
Let's face it, we've probably all done it! Cheerily phoned a colleague with a vital bit of information only to be greeted by a sleepy voice asking what the time is? After several minutes of gruff conversation you finally realise that he or she is the other side of the world and tucked up in bed. Time-zones are just one of the hazards of being a member of a virtual team!
Here are some of the things the leader of a virtual team must keep in mind ...
- Keep creating opportunities for the team to act and feel accountable for team success. It would be very easy to assume the full burden of accountability and work on a one-to-one basis with each team member.
- Many virtual teams comment that they have rarely spoken to some members on their team. Establish clear communication practices. For example, if a phone connection dies, as often happens, the person whose phone cuts off is the one who initiates re-contact. This prevents time wasting as two people try to reconnect and get the engaged sound!
- Develop an understanding and insight into cultural differences. It may be normal for you to introduce colleagues by their first name, it does not necessarily mean that it is acceptable worldwide.
- Take time to set the team up. This often takes longer for virtual teams than for teams working in close proximity to each other. Don't be persuaded by the business to just get on with the task without setting up solid foundations.
- How about setting a team time zone that everyone will plan against, e.g. Greenwich Mean Time or Eastern Standard Time USA. This small practice can prevent huge confusion when some bright spark says lets have a call at 3pm and everyone assumes its 3pm their local time!
- Have a global team - get to grips with global working. Find out about time zones, public holidays, different working practices.
Managing and working in a virtual team demands greater attention to detail and efficient systems. It also requires a high degree of trust and a focus on agreed outputs rather than inputs.