Managing Virtual Teams that Thrive
What started as a necessity has become a standard operating procedure in many businesses. Some organizations used virtual teams before the pandemic, but the increase in remote workers due to the coronavirus had everyone looking for virtual solutions. As an entrepreneur, employing the best practices for management will help you leverage the benefits of a virtual team.
Embracing the Technology
Technology is a fundamental resource for virtual meetings and collaboration. As a manager, you want to confirm that everyone uses the same platform and understands the software. Getting all your team members on the same page will involve training, but it will also encourage inclusion, participation, and collaboration. You also must recognize that people learn technology at different paces. Be patient with employees who need extra practice to gain proficiency.
Acknowledging the Challenges
The early stages of virtual meetings can be frustrating. Depending on the makeup of your team, you may have people in different time zones and variations in internet speeds. The small delays between responses can make the process feel unnatural. As a leader, it is best to acknowledge the challenges and talk to the team about ways to overcome them.
One of the most frequent concerns with virtual teams is the lack of face-to-face time with leaders and other team members. If it is feasible in your situation, you may want to schedule monthly in-person gatherings. You should also offer virtual office hours when you can talk individually with team members by phone or video chat.
Understanding Social Needs
Managing virtual teams is not just about technology. The best online meetings happen when the leadership understands the social needs of the human participants. In an online context, people still want to feel respected and included. They want to know that their colleagues are listening and paying attention.
Fairness is a concern in an online arena. Speakers may not realize they are speaking over other colleagues or dominating the conversation. It will take extra effort and attention from the leader to make certain that every participant has a chance to speak.
It can also be helpful to gather the group for conversations on topics other than the primary project. In the early stages, reflecting on how to improve communication and establish operating standards will encourage group cohesion. Celebrating completed steps or the end of a project will also build the group.
Being the Example
The human brain is one of the greatest challenges to virtual meetings. Despite your best efforts, there is still a part of every employee that sees online meetings as a little less than real. You can improve this situation by demonstrating your engagement. Small actions like turning off notifications and keeping your phone out of view will keep you from looking distracted and set a standard for the group.
An Experienced Partner for Learning Best Practices
At Productivity Intelligence Institute, my focus is on helping entrepreneurs benefit from improving their leadership skills. If you need ideas for managing virtual teams at your business, feel free to reach out. I would be honored to work with you.