7 Habits of Highly Effective Virtual Teams

graphic that says 7 habits of highly effective virtual teams

In the spirit of Covey’s groundbreaking 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I have a few ideas about highly effective virtual teams. It’s kind of a passion of mine. My research and my book Virtual Teams for Dummies continue to motivate me to spread the word about virtual team best practices. Frankly, I believe it is critical for all leaders in today’s workplace. Virtual teams are not slowing down and I sincerely want them to be successful. But virtual teams will struggle if their leaders apply old-school management processes to their new far-flung teams.  So take to heart these habits, and your virtual team will be way ahead of the game:

  1. Team members are in contact daily – If it’s hard to remember the last time you connected with your team, then you have a problem. Highly effective virtual teams can’t let their daily or weekly team meetings fall off the calendar. Isolation and disengagement are the death knell for virtual teams, but the good news is that you have the solution at your fingertips. The best collaboration tools include project management, file sharing, video conferencing and instant messaging. Time to regroup and recommit your team to using the programs you have in place – every day.
  2. Trust is not an issue – Leaders and team members need to let go of outdated, clock-watching models. Flexible work hours are built into a virtual team model. Obviously, setting clear expectations and accountability plays into this, but you can’t try to manage a virtual team with a 9-5 mindset.
  3. Everyone understands – and respects – the rules. Effective virtual teams have a team charter (team vision and values) and team agreement (how you get things done day-to-day) in place. When people do their work unseen by others, it is imperative that they – and every member of the team – are accountable for doing what they say they will. Setting team standards and holding team members accountable is critical for team success.
  4. Over-communication is the rule — This one’s no surprise and it’s even more critical in the virtual world. When you aren’t together every day, you must communicate goals and expectations clearly and seek feedback frequently, using all the technologies available to you.
  5. Everyone uses the same communication vehicles – You cannot manage a virtual team via emails and conference calls alone. There are so many great tools available to bring virtual teams together – collaborative software, video conferencing, project management tools, group scheduling, note-taking and brainstorming, file sharing, social media-type tools and much more. Having the right technology is only half the battle – team members must use it effectively to realize the benefits of true team connection.
  6. Respect the clock and the map – Successful virtual teams understand time and cultural differences because they often exist to connect people across the country and the world. It is critical to understand each other’s cultures, language barriers, body language differences, humor, sensitivities, not to mention work hours and time zones.
  7. Getting Together ‘IRL’ – I am a huge proponent of virtual teams, but there’s nothing better than being in the same room together. Virtual teams who get together in person at least monthly are able to realize peak effectiveness. However, for teams where this is impossible due to budgetary or geographic restrictions, you can still establish rapport and build relationships by setting aside time for non-work connections.

I have been speaking to groups and working with more clients on virtual teams, and I am loving these opportunities to share my research, knowledge and experience. I believe it is vital for leaders and teams in the modern workplace. If your company would benefit from learning more about virtual teams, contact me today!

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