Today’s world is one of virtual offices and teams that are managed without people ever meeting face to face. You may never know what the people working for you physically look like. No longer is there a need for cubicles and conference rooms. In fact, many people can work directly from home wearing their pajamas if they choose. While a virtual team has numerous advantages including cost and convenience, it also comes with its share of challenges. How do you manage a team from across the city, across the country, or across the world? How do you ensure work is getting done, milestones are being met, and the quality of work is maintained? While it may be a little more challenging than walking to your coworker’s desk to check in, managing a virtual team is not only doable but often more efficient.
Communication is Key
When your team members are working separately, it is easy to become disconnected. Time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences are all dangers of communication break downs for your virtual team. Communication is the key to success in a virtual environment.
- 1. Communicate Often
Communication is even more important when your team works remotely. You will need to communicate often to ensure everyone is on track and on the same page. Regular communication and meetings also help set a routine that your team can get familiar with. Start the schedule as soon as you begin working with your virtual team. Go over status updates of project deliverables in each meeting and ensure that all issues or problems are brought up right away. Help your team identify road blocks and work through them. Show that you are there to help! Build trust and your team will work harder for you.
- 2. Use Multiple Communication
When it comes to communication options, technology is your friend. Even five to ten years ago, the only viable options for direct communication were phone and email. Today, we have many choices including group chats and video conferencing over the internet. While email and phone are still important, having video conferencing allows everyone a chance to get to know the face behind the name and builds team comradery. Video meetings also are often the most efficient because your team will remain focused, and the video brings some of that “office” feel to your meeting. Even for team members in different time zones, there is often a time that will work for everyone.
- 3. Provide Feedback
Just as in an office environment, providing timely feedback is essential to managing your virtual team. If a project is not going the way you want it to, speak up right away. Providing feedback is a crucial part of managing any team of people and is even more important when your team is spread out. The more often you provide feedback (especially in the beginning), the more valuable the end product will be. Ask your virtual team to keep you updated regularly and provide feedback (both positive and negative) right away.
Create a Professional Work Environment
Just because your team is not in an office building does not mean that professionalism goes by the wayside. Create a professional work environment, and hold people accountable to maintain it.
- 1. Set Clear Goals
Setting clear goals ties back in with communication. Let your team know upfront what is expected of them and your ultimate goal for the project. Clearly inform and document expected finish dates for each task. Make sure that each team member agrees to the goals and guidelines you set.
- 2. Have Detailed Deliverables
and Due Dates
Break up the project into workable short-term tasks that can be monitored along the way. Ensure that each team member provides status updates regularly and knows who to turn to if they have questions as the project progresses. Review the work early and often to ensure that the project is advancing as you had envisioned. Quickly redirect the work if it begins to stray from your goals.
- 3. Maintain Accountability
Each member of your virtual team is accountable for the project deliverables that you have provided. Only accept work that demonstrates the quality your customer expects. If you start to make revisions after your team submits work, they will not learn and you will end up doing much more work than you intended. Provide courteous and timely feedback if any team member is not performing adequately.
Managing a virtual team is rewarding, and if done correctly will result in success for everyone involved. Stay involved and communicate closely with your team.
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