Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinking

action plan brainstorming complex 212286 600x242 - Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinking

action plan brainstorming complex 212286 300x200 - Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinkingNew technologies are enabling workplace innovations such as remote working, co-working spaces and teleconferencing. Organizations are likely to have an ever-smaller pool of core full-time employees for fixed functions, backed up by colleagues in other countries and external consultants and contractors for specific projects.”

–     The Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum, 2016

In 2016, the WEF gave company executives a sneak peak at what the future held in a five-year outlook, and the prominence of virtual teams was, well, prominent. And they weren’t wrong.

Odds are your organization already works virtually, at least a little. Whether it’s co-located colleagues working at just 90 feet away from one another (that’s all it takes), permanent employees working from home, consultants working halfway around the world, or even freelancers hired online, nearly everyone has experienced a virtual working environment at least once.

In its report, the WEF also listed the top 10 skills companies will value most in employees by 2020 – though not from the point of view of virtual teams. In this blog series, we’ll do just that, one skill at a time. In this entry we’re looking at skill #2: Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking in virtual teams

Thinking critically is all about stepping back to examine all aspects of a situation – particularly new challenges or obstacles. There are many resources for developing critical thinking skills, often talking about the importance of “clarifying the question.”

Clarifying the question means getting everyone on the same page, ensuring they understand the objective and how their expertise can contribute to achieving it. Otherwise, you wind up with a bunch of smart people working at cross-purposes as they focus only on their own narrow piece of the puzzle.

Unfortunately for virtual workers, hyper-focusing on your narrow piece is all too easy. Working on your own naturally increases feelings of isolation and slows the development of trust, making it harder to bring the big-picture thinking required to solve problems that impact everyone.

But with the right tools and strategies, virtual workers can clarify the question just as well as their co-located peers.

Develop critical thinking in virtual teams

Raise your hand if this is familiar: you walk away from a “successful” team meeting, only to discover later on that nobody agrees on what was discussed. This is a common enough challenge when clarifying the question, and one that can get exaggerated in virtual teams. See how Lunch & Learn training sessions can help your team.

Fortunately, by using the right communication strategies and collaboration tools, virtual teams can effectively get everybody on the same page:

Use a virtual whiteboard

Most web conferencing applications include a virtual white board for participants to jot down shared notes about the problem they are trying to solve. These notes give the facilitator and team see what people are thinking and ensure that everyone is discussing the same topic in the same way.

Managers can also invite their staff to submit ideas in advance to pre-populate the whiteboard so everyone in the meeting hits the ground running.

Use polls to challenge ideas and avoid groupthink

Playing devil’s advocate to challenge assumptions and spark new ideas is essential to critical thinking. However, remote workers often wary about being judged for breaking the flow of the conversation and will keep quiet, even if they have a valuable disagreement.

Web polls are a great workaround, automatically pausing the conversation and making it feel safer for virtual staff to share their thoughts.

Pause and summarize

Once everyone seems ready to move on from an agenda item, even after conducting a poll, it’s crucial to pause and summarize your conversation. Doing this is one final check that everyone is on the same page, helping make up for not having visual cues like facial expression and body language to guide your interpretation of what everyone is thinking and feeling.

Thinking critically about virtual teams

With the right communication strategies in place, there’s no stopping virtual teams from realizing all of the cost savings and efficiencies they promise – especially when they’re equipped to take a step back, work together, and think critically about their challenges and objectives.

Future-proof your virtual teams with lunch & learn training sessions

Learn more today!

By : Michal Spiar /October 07, 2019 /blog, Virtual Leadership /0 Comment Read More

The Seven Deadly Sins of Virtual Teams

7sinsheader 600x242 - The Seven Deadly Sins of Virtual Teams

Is your virtual team falling victim to these most common pitfalls?

Many people assume virtual teamwork is simple – you do the same work you always do, only at a distance, right?

In fact, fully 50% of virtual teams fail to meet their objectives, with some studies pegging the number as high as 82%. That’s pretty scary when you consider that 89% of employees report working virtually at least some of the time.

So, how do you create a virtual team that beats the odds and becomes a success story, delivering on the promise of cost savings, high morale, and sustainable productivity?

It all starts with knowing (and avoiding) the Seven Deadly Sins of Virtual Teams.

If you think your team has fallen victim to any of these common pitfalls, you’ll want to focus on doing something about it since these deadly sins don’t usually get better on their own.

Virtual Sin #1: Us vs. Them

Few things are worse for team morale than hosting meetings in which some of your team members call in remotely and others attend in person. This setup can cause an us-vs-them mentality where remote staff feel disconnected and disengaged from the face-to-face attendees, withholding valuable input and feeling less ownership over meeting outcomes.

This ultimately leads to half-successful meetings at best, frustrated leaders who wonder what is going on with their team, and a siloed workforce that wastes time and energy on miscommunication and duplicated effort.

Virtual Sin #2: Multitasking is Killing Your Bottom Line

Multitasking. We all do it, none of us do it well, and it can even be harmful to your team’s productivity. In fact, worldwide, multitasking costs corporations $450 billion per year.

Virtual meetings are notorious for staff answering emails, surfing the web, or just doing their day-to-day work instead of giving 100% of their attention to the meetings. Beyond being disrespectful to the rest of the team, switching between tasks causes:

  • Productivity to drop by as much as 40%
  • More frequent errors, especially where critical thought is involved
  • Higher stress
  • Increased health risk, including elevated heart rate (University of California Irvine)

Virtual Sin #3: Failed Leadership

One recent study of engineering groups showed that the best predictor of success for managers of dispersed teams is prior experience. This trend is more and more common, particularly as commutes worsen, more staff request work-from-home days, and more companies attract worldwide talent.

Yet, despite the explosion in virtual teams, many companies thrust leaders into their r oles with inadequate training – or no training at all – in how to lead them, which explains why only 15% rate themselves as very effective and just 53% as moderately effective. The result is an inefficient and ineffective team that more often than not fails to meet its goals.

Virtual Sin #4: Allowing Out-of-Sight to Equal Out-of-Mind

What is the greatest fear of the virtual worker? Being out of sight means being out of mind for their managers, leading to five key consequences:

  1. Virtual workers do not have an opportunity to grow and develop their skills.
  2. They feel left out of the loop.
  3. They do not learn company updates at the same time as face-to-face employees.
  4. Their accomplishments go unnoticed and unappreciated.
  5. Their career paths within the organization become limited.

Virtual workers who suffer these consequences participate less, which only worsens their status and well-being. In fact, 80% of virtual team members find that working virtually is more difficult than in person.

Great virtual managers will find ways to make sure their virtual team members are well integrated, well-informed, and appreciated for their contributions.

Contact us to talk about ways you could improve performance of your virtual team. Taking proactive action is what these sins need to be undone.

Virtual Sin #5: Goal and Role Ambiguity

Role Ambiguity is one of the greatest sources of stress for leaders and members of virtual teams. Leaders cannot achieve effective team performance without clearly defined goals and roles. The role of the virtual team leader is to implement structured processes, well-defined goals, and clear accountabilities for each team member.

The result of poorly communicated goals and roles is higher frequency of misunderstanding, lower levels of coordination, missed productivity benchmarks, and higher costs.

Virtual Sin #6: Taking Trust for Granted

Trust is the foundation of a high-functioning team, virtual or otherwise – it’s the glue that holds the team together.

Unfortunately, it takes four times as long for virtual teams to build trust compared to their face-to-face counterparts.

Teams with high levels of geographic, operational and cultural differences report lower levels of trust, innovation, satisfaction and collaboration than more homogeneous teams. In fact, only 50% of virtual employees report success at building trusted relationships with their fellow team members, and 52% cite managing conflict as one of the biggest issues they face.

Virtual Sin #7: Are You Missing the Signs of Burnout?

Virtual teams stand apart from traditional face-to-face teams in that geographic distance between colleagues can intensify the impact of setbacks and lengthen the amount of time it takes to recover from setbacks. This distance between team members can also make it easier for virtual leaders to miss the crucial signs of a lack of team member resilience.

By the time resilience depletion becomes obvious, the damage to team productivity and morale may be severe.

Every sin on this list contributes to burnout, acting as negative forces that lower morale and drain energy from your team over time. Great virtual managers are the ones who develop strategies and protocols to overcome these challenges, building high-performing teams that thrive.

From Sinful to Virtuous

Do you recognize any of these sins in your organization? If so, how many? Even one can have a pronounced negative impact on a virtual team. If you spot three or more in your own organization, we should talk soon because these problems simply do not solve themselves and nearly always get worse before they get better.

Fortunately, these sins don’t have to define your virtual team, and getting on the path to success is easier than you think.

A great place to start is to schedule a no-commitment 30-minute consultation with expert staff from Virtual Team Builders and set your team up for success!


By : Claire Sookman /October 03, 2019 /blog, CEO concerns, Virtual Leadership, Virtual Meetings /0 Comment Read More
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