Top 6 Predictors of Virtual Team Success
January 10, 2018
If you follow my blog, you know that virtual team success is one of my top areas of focus. I’ve been researching the challenges of participating and leading virtual teams for more than a year and I’ll soon be releasing my Executive Summary and white paper on my findings. In addition, to my research, I am in the process of writing my next book with Wiley ‘Virtual Teams for Dummies,’ due out next year.
So clearly it’s a topic close to my heart. And it’s a trend that has no end in sight. The use of virtual teams is growing aggressively, with some sources estimating that more than 1 billion people will work virtually (or remotely) in the next few years.
So if your company is switching to a ‘virtual’ model and you are a member of a team who will now be working remotely, pay attention – here are a few of my top predictors of virtual team success:
- Accountability – 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.
- Trust – Again, leaders and team members need to let go of outdated, clock-watching models. Flexible work hours are built in to 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.
- Communication – 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.
- Effective use of technology – 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.
- Understanding cultural differences – Many virtual teams 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. This is a big one and it usually requires its own training.
- Getting Together Face to Face — Virtual teams who get together in person monthly or a few times a year, 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 connection. It’s also imperative that teams are connected visually using technology such as Skype.