Bring Together A Virtual Team That Actually Works
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Missed deadlines, an evident lack of communication, people who don’t know each other well enough- as (a modification of) the Leo Tolstoy quote goes,
‘all happy virtual teams are alike; each unhappy virtual team is unhappy in its own way.’
This month, we’ll be discussing why this is often the case, and offering solutions that work.
Sometimes, sloppiness and a general disregard for rules are ingrained in a team’s culture. As a leader, it is up to you to guide them towards better practices that benefit them, and the business.
If it isn’t a cultural issue that you’re dealing with but a far simpler lack of coordination, here are a few ways to handle it. If you are a startup founder working with multiple agencies or freelancers, these tips will work for you as well.
Tips To Fix A Virtual Team That Isn't Working
1. Use Collaboration Tools: The reason most tools don’t work is that no one is using them. Simple. Get your team on the wagon and get them to use the tool correctly. From Slack and Asana to Trello (which we love), the options are endless. Find a tool that serves your purpose best, and use it. Ensure that all communication that goes to you, and is acknowledged by you, is on the tool of choice. This way, everyone else has no option but to figure it out. You can also schedule a video call and explain the tool to your team for better compliance.
2. Decide On Meetings Well In Advance: With virtual teams, there is always the possibility that not everyone is available at a set date and time. In all probability, vendors work with many other clients and need to be told beforehand when their time is required. If possible, plan all review meetings and feedback loops a month in advance. For the emergency meetings, most people will be happy to comply when everything else follows a set structure. Also, don’t make every meeting an emergency meeting- that just doesn’t work.
3. Build Camaraderie: When people in a team don’t work from the same office, it can be that much harder to get them to know each other. Only when people know other people that they feel empathy for them. And empathy drives everything from consideration to a grasp of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and even timely delivery. Find a way to get the whole team together online at a set date and time and just bond over some good food and chatter. If a team member is travelling to your city, be sure to make them feel welcome and don’t just leave it up to them to bond with everyone else.
4. Team Training: Individual training modules work well for tackling individual goals within your organization. For teams to understand their collective roles, team trainings are the way to go. These too can be conducted virtually, or as one-on-one sessions conducted by a single coach for each member of the team. Find a way to make group training and group sharing work for your specific case.
5. Set Clear Goals: For people who aren’t always hanging on to each other’s arms, it helps to have a clear picture of what is expected of them. This is where collaboration tools can help immensely. Ensure that you communicate the action items clearly, and encourage questions. Set a timeline that is reasonable. Use an automation tool to send reminders a few days before a task is due.
The continuous feedback that flows in a loop is the cornerstone of effective virtual teams. Always take time out to offer feedback on completed tasks, what you expect in the future and where someone has fallen short. Open communication as well as listening to the team’s concerns can help you work productively, wherever in the world you may be individually.