As any good team leader knows, it’s valuable to stop and take stock of your team every now and again to make sure everyone is working well together. In co-located teams, it can be MBWA – management by wandering around. This tried and true method gives managers a random sampling of events and employee discussions, and is more likely to facilitate improvements to morale, productivity and total quality management.
For virtual teams, however, this is not possible – which means virtual team leads need to bring other strategies to the table.
Here are three of the easiest ones to implement:
Virtual Team Meetings
- Start your virtual meetings by asking your team to share:
- a challenge they are experiencing that they would like assistance with
- a success they’ve had that they would like to share with the rest of the team
- a tip or a website that they came across recently that might assist their colleagues
- Ensure you call on team members who typically participate less, reminding that out of sight does not mean out of mind
- Take note of individuals who excel in certain areas (e.g. running the meeting, sharing updates, leading brainstorming) and give them opportunities to shine
Use meetings not just to advance a project but to bring your team closer together.
Create Human Moments
You can’t lead people without talking to them, and in the virtual environment you need to create the opportunities to do just that. The inability to simply walk across the hall and have a chat can have the same negative effect as keeping your office door closed – it sends a signal that you are unapproachable.
To replicate the type of open-door policy that invites conversation, set up virtual office hours instead. Establish a regular schedule where your team members can drop into your chat room to discuss tasks or non-task related items. Knowing that you have a virtual open door-policy will promote richer and more authentic communication.
Have One-on-One Virtual Touch Points
Make your virtual interactions high-touch conversations that indicate to your team that you are invested in their development. Schedule a regularly occurring virtual meeting with members and be sure to ask some of the following questions:
- What successes did you have this week?
- What were some of the roadblocks you had last week?
- What roadblocks are you anticipating this week?
- How can I assist you?
Open and frequent and dialogue with your team will set the stage for success.
There are a number of companies that conduct corporate training for virtual teams and virtual managers. This training provides invaluable insight into why traditional communication strategies don’t work in the virtual environment and how to adapt.
One insightful – and free – resource is the Virtual Team Success Survey by Virtual Team Builders (VTB). Designed for virtual team leads and managers, the survey and following 30-minute consultation (also complimentary) to review your results can help set you and your team on the path to success.
Virtual offices, managed well, are just as productive and offer far more flexibility than their co-located counterparts. Always strive to gain new virtual management skills to get the most out of your team.
– Claire Sookman, Founder, Virtual Team Builders