Are your work colleagues spread across two or more different buildings, departments or offices on a large campus, or perhaps in different cities, states or even countries?

Worse still, are you expected to work in harmony with these people when you have had little or no interaction with them?

Welcome to the modern world of business today. As businesses become more globalised, people are working in virtual teams that are spread across many different locations in a town, state or country.

As an international people expert, I am called on more and more to deal with dysfunctional virtual teams that are spread across disparate locations with team members saying they don’t know their boss or colleagues, they feel they have no support and they don’t know what to do or who to go to in times of crisis.

Managing a virtual team is not easy and is fraught with pitfalls. In order to be successful, the manager of a virtual team must follow these three steps:

•  Have a shared vision and common goals;

•  Communicate often; and

•  Have the right person in the right job


Shared vision, common goals

The first step in any virtual team is to make sure all members have the same vision of the project they are working on. Choose a time of day for all the team to meet virtually and have a teleconference either on traditional telephone lines, using a video link if your organisation has that technology or perhaps use Google Hangout or a similar tool.

This will mean an early start for some and perhaps a late finish for others; however, it is vital that all the team be present for this meeting at least.

The next step is that the whole team must agree on the goals for the project, who is responsible for what and by when. If there are differences of opinion, it is up to the manager to either facilitate discussion or simply take charge and set the goals for the team.

Starting out with the whole team around the virtual table, discussing the project and how the work is to be delivered is critical.

Next, assign sub-goals and agree how work will be delivered in each time zone and how updates will be passed between time zones.

Communicate often

Communication will be the make-or-break factor in delivering the project on time. Plan to have a handover at the start and end of each time zone between the teams finishing up and taking over.

Each person in the team needs to know what has gone on before so he knows where to go next. Encourage communication by phone, e-mail, Google Hangout or whatever works best in your organisation.  Communication is vital.

As team leader, it is up to you to keep up to date with what is happening in each of your outposts. Set a time each week to meet virtually, get regular written update reports and hold people to account, rewarding good work and counselling poor performance.

Your role as a manager does not change just because you are in a different office, time zone or even country from other people in your team.

Right person in the right job

The final piece in the puzzle is to make sure that each member in the team is working to his strength. The best part about having virtual teams is that you can assign work based on skill sets and juggle that to suit the strengths you have within the team.

If you apply the three-step model, you too can have a great performing team — all it takes is time, effort and commitment.

 

Article by Lindsay Adams, a referral marketing expert, international speaker with Training Edge International and 2009-2010 international president of Global Speakers Federation. For more information, visit www.trainingedgeasia.com or e-mail Lindsay.adams@trainingedgeasia.com