It seemed like not too long ago people working together on teams shared an office or at least worked on the same campus. In today’s workplace, however, it is more and more common for all the members of a team to work in remote locations, communicate through electronic means and rarely, if ever, see one another.
But virtual team life is not without its share of problems. To succeed, team members have to overcome obstacles such as time zone differences and a lack of nonverbal communication. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your virtual team:
Schedule a face-to-face early on
It may seem contrary to the nature of virtual teams, but if possible, arrange a time and place for all members to physically meet (at least for the team leader to meet each team member). Trust is the foundation of an effective virtual team. Because face-to-face socializing is easier than virtual, it will help build trust among team members and establish important social bonds. If meeting ‘in person’ is not feasible then schedule a videoconference where everyone can connect.
Establish clear communication protocol
Institute and stand by regular communication norms. Agree on how you will communicate (email, phone, videoconference, chat), how often you will talk and how long it should take to respond to one another. Rapid responses are preferred as they build trust and keep teammates focused on the task, preventing little problems from turning into big ones. At the same time, it’s important not to bog everyone down with constantly checking their inbox. Let everyone know when it’s time to pick up the phone.
Capitalize on your team’s diversity
Your virtual team is diverse, consisting of dynamic, self-motivated individuals with varying skill sets and experience. There will be times when you need assistance with an assignment and popping your head out of your virtual cubical to consult with a team member is a must. Reach out to your teammates and take advantage of their expertise to both share ideas and strengthen trust.
Encourage Pro-Active Behavior
Successful virtual team members are dynamic, self-motivated and responsible. They see obstacles as challenges and relish the opportunity to build appropriate solutions. At the same time, they still need a leader to provide them with direction. Define their individual roles but let them decide how to best reach the goal. This will foster creativity and allow the entire team to bond over task-related assignments.
Virtual team members don’t have the benefit of nonverbal cues (such as body language and certain visual aids), so succinct communication is vital. Managing from a distance requires being clear about expectations, routine checks for comprehension and a quick turnaround time to answer questions and clear up misunderstandings. In the beginning of a virtual transition, this likely requires regular phone calls or video sessions with individual team members.
The idea of, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ is a common initial challenge to overcome. You have to trust that you brought the right team together. Only once that trust is established between you and your team can everyone focus on the task at hand and achieving peak performance. Do this by building expectations around communication patterns and establishing yourself as a go-to resource that everyone can rely on.
Whether you are a veteran of virtual teams or just starting out, putting these tips to work for your virtual team will make the experience run seamlessly.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Richard_Lepsinger/1458752
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