Virtual Leadership & Teams
For the last several years I've worked in a team that is spread all across the world. The following ramblings are the items I've picked up from working in a virtual team as well as from books that I've read on the subject. One thing is key, leadership is leadership. It doesn’t matter if you are there local or remote. Enjoy.
Trust is an important aspect in all levels of leadership. The degree in which trust is used across virtual teams is usually much deeper than what level is used with a local team. Trust is the key to getting performance from a team that is distributed geographically. Trust must be gained:
- In you as a virtual leader
- In the virtual project or virtual organization
- In all virtual team members across distance
Building Relationships and Trust
Since virtual teams have limited interaction and limited knowledge of each other in their isolation, the virtual team must establish ways to help team members learn about each other quickly and frequently.
- Establish ways for the team to learn more about each other professionally and personally so they will collaborate even when distant
- Establish a short meeting for the team to talk with one another to troubleshoot and discuss current issues
- Pair off people to work together on parts of the project
- Acknowledge all types of recognitions including, birthdays, academic success, and other personal achievements
Virtual Team Alignment
People who work across distance tend to lose focus after any single meeting. Therefore, it is critical that the virtual team create:
- A clear vision so every team member knows exactly where the team is headed
- A clear emotional link so each remote team member stays motivated when distant
- A published roadmap that is used as each person does work remotely to align work and efforts
Virtual Team Equality
Be extremely fair in treating all team members, near and far, equally. Even appearances or suggestions of favoritism break trust.
- Avoid the temptation to rely more on those on-site with you than those at a distance
- Take culture differences into consideration
- Give every team member an equal opportunity to excel and contribute to the result
- Confront nonperformance in a constructive manner
- Be consistent and fair in holding everyone accountable for every factor needed to insure team success
Miscommunication and unequal access to information are trust-breakers.
Keep communications flowing to counteract the out of sight out of mind phenomenon on distributed teams.
- Be extremely clear when making decisions
- Frequency of communication should be increased compared to a team that is only local
- Understand that members will have different communication preferences
- E-mail, forum, phone, face-to-face, instant messaging, etc
- What isn’t said matters too
- Check for understanding or ask for clarification
Again these are items I've picked up over the years and through books. Please feel to share you thoughts if you have anything good to add to the conversation.