High performance virtual teams by design – part II

Three factors I care about managing a virtual team

Key factors for successful virtual teams: tips for management and leadership – part II

In the first part of this blog I have described my experience and approach in designing a virtual team with focus on the selection of the members, so they have a good foundation for collaboration and independent work. Then I dived into the foundation of the collaboration, the rules of engagement and the processes needed to ensure seamless collaboration.

All builds a good foundation for successful work in virtual teams. However, it also requires good management and leadership in order to realise the potential. In this second part, I will now focus on a few aspects on how best to manage and lead a virtual team.

In an earlier blog I have also described how important trust is for the success of the virtual team. If you have missed it, you might want to read it here.

Here, I will now focus on three further aspects which, in my experience, greatly contribute to managing a virtual team successfully:

  1. good relationships
  2. results orientation and
  3. process stability

So, how did I approach these three aspects in my virtual team leadership?

Building good relationships

The best way to build deeper relationships across a virtual team, beyond demonstrating trust, is giving appreciation and showing empathy for each member. Fostering such behaviours is part of my leadership for the team.

One way of practising relationship development could be a virtual coffee corner or, as some other people call it, a virtual water cooler get-together. In practice you organise a regular virtual get-together to exchange personal stories, chat about various aspects without having a formal agenda or driving for any decisions. (There is a separate blog on this too! Find it here)

Another element I have applied in a number of virtual teams is to share my leadership responsibilities amongst the team members so that everybody feels an element of accountability for the team and its success.

And last but not least I seek to have frequent one-on-one conversations with all the team members, so they feel a direct connection with me as their leader.

Fostering results orientation

Ideally, results are already being delivered along the way. These deliveries are an indicator of successful teamwork. Whenever tasks and work streams are planned and assigned I ensure that everybody is clear about their responsibilities and that the commitments are tracked transparently in the team. This is important in order to have clear reviews on commitments and holding people accountable. Discussing failure to deliver openly and drawing lessons learned from it with the team can contribute greatly to result orientation.

Having processes stability

Generally members of virtual teams have a higher need of predictability of their work engagements. Hence, it is important to build a ‘rhythm of business’, a clear schedule of regular meetings to which all members are committed. This avoids a, sometimes endless and frustrating, search for a specific date to meet online as a team.

A set of fundamental processes in combination with clarity in roles and responsibilities helps each member of the virtual team to understand what he or she can expect from others and what the rest of the team is expecting from them.

Setting up and leading virtual teams often requires more skills and effort than co-located teams. However, for me, the diversity virtual teams offer brings much more fun in the teamwork. Hence, I am always excited when I get the opportunity to lead a virtual team and make it successful.



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