In this series of Blogs, we will discuss Virtual Team Strategies designed to ensure that the Virtual Team thrives and is successful so that assigned goals and tasks can be achieved.
Team members will develop their own individual ways and timeframes for addressing and accomplishing their goals. Having regularly scheduled meetings, ideally on the same day and time each week allows individuals to structure their time to meet deadlines. In virtual teams, leaders need to establish and distribute their meeting agendas in advance and start and finish meetings on time in order to provide consistent and reliable grounding of the team. If you have team members working in different time zones, establish a regular rotation of meeting times to spread the off-time meeting load evenly throughout the team.
Importantly, VT leaders cannot allow members of the team to remain quiet throughout the meeting. It may be necessary to call on those that do not participate on a regular basis. Ask them to share their thoughts, ask “expertise” questions of those that should be participating due to their knowledge and experience if they don’t volunteer themselves into the conversation. Everyone involved in a virtual meeting is participating in some fashion, at least within their minds. Bring them into the conversation. It may be awkward at first but shortly team members will learn that they need to be participants and not simply present online. Ensure that no one gets to “sit out” the meetings or the meetings will begin to be dominated by the most vocal members and fewer ideas and solution options will reach the group.
Virtual Teams and their leaders will benefit from fostering Shared Leadership practices. These benefits go beyond sharing the leadership load when multiple objectives are in play. Stand-alone “special projects” are an especially good way to involve others in leading all or portions of the team. Another way to develop shared leadership, based on individual skillsets, is to ask team members to coach others on the team about their areas of expertise. There are many benefits in doing this; Future team leaders will begin to understand the complexity of leading VT’s, recognition within the group is enhanced, multiple views and leadership styles surface. Shared leadership is a good way to get Individuals to communicate with each other and not simply up and down the traditional “chain of command”. Many times, a leader will find that they have a very good leader “hidden” within the group who can help the team accomplish its objectives. Also, do not hesitate to assign dissimilar team members to joint projects as it helps build bonds between team members who would not normally gravitate towards each other.
The above is one of a series of articles discussing the creation, development, and care of effective dispersed or virtual teams. David spent 18 years working in these types of teams, from individual contributor to Director of a team of field based engineers and support staff. These articles are based upon his successful experiences both leading and participating in virtual teams.