Most managers of virtual teams have one thing in common: a crisis in confidence. According to recent research, only 15% rate themselves as highly effective, and just 53% feel they are moderately effective.
Their staff are slightly more generous, saying that 24% are very effective, which is better though hardly inspiring.
The reason for these lackluster statistics? Just 22% of people working on virtual teams receive training on how to work effectively in that environment.
This is an important issue that has real consequences for virtual teams, leading to miscommunication, inefficiencies and trust issues that can cut into if not completely obliterate the supposed benefits and cost savings that working virtually can provide.
In the virtual environment, nobody can see you smile – or hear your tone of voice, or pick up on any number of other cues we learn from birth. As a result, virtual managers and employees need a new communications toolkit designed for the virtual environment.
Real skills for virtual teams
What’s different in the virtual environment? Just about everything, really. From basic communication:
From basic communication:
- Clear and concise interactions over email, chat and web, video and conference calls
- Learning how and when to use which collaboration technology to facilitate the right interaction at the right time
- Remembering to explicitly include everyone during a virtual meeting whether they are in the same building or 3,000 miles apart, this can help combat the out-of-sight-out-of-mind effec
To virtual meetings:
- Devote time to building sustainable and trusting relationships through something as simple as having everyone share a recent success or challenge they experienced – teams that spend just 15 minutes a day building relationships have a 20% increase in performance over those that do not
- Provide a visual map or representation of meeting participants, helping to ensure that remote attendees feel like they are part of the team and connected to the rest of the group
From basic management:
- Leverage technology to create an “open door policy” that signals your availability for impromptu virtual conversations
- Be transparent, sharing updates with your virtual and face-to-face team members simultaneously; this keeps everyone feeling in the loop and equal regardless of their distance from one another
- Demonstrate credibility, as people trust what they can see; when you are open and honest, others don’t have to guess what your intentions are
Great virtual managers understand that’s the unique challenges of the virtual environment can lead to serious issues including low morale, reduced productivity, feelings of isolation, and general
By taking the time to invest in virtual communication and management skills, they position themselves and their team for long-term success.
Incorporating virtual best practices
Few people are born with the knowledge and skills it takes to work in the virtual environment, which means investing in targeted virtual training is essential to drawing out the best in you and your virtual team.
Virtual Team Builders offers a free mentoring session for Leaders of virtual teams – click here to learn more.
What challenges to you face on your virtual team? Let us know on social media using the hashtag #VirtualTeamTalk!