Updated: Mar 7, 2020
Virtual teams have unique challenges. In a global world, team members may be placed around But my team is responsible for high profile international events and industry information requiring deep cooperation and engagement. I had to be more creative on how I developed my virtual team and encouraged the best work out of each person. Here's how I did it:
1. Build relationships. This is incredibly important on a team. People have a choice where they spend their time and energy. Take the time to connect with team members on a regular basis, pass along compliments from others, acknowledge their work and progress, and thank them. I’m always amazed at how much people just want to know someone knows how hard they’re working.
2. Find their passion. Part of building relationships is understanding what is important to each team member and what they would like to see in the organization. Who knew that there are people who love understanding regulations (!) but there are! It's important to make sure those are the people who are leading in that area, with the support they need to excel.
3. Get to yes. Always try to say yes. Sometimes it’s a “yes, and” with additional caveats, but try not to put out someone’s fire on an idea. If they has a recommendation, empower them to do it, providing resources and connections to help them along.
4. Provide structure. The most daunting thing for many people is a blank page or project plan. They have the idea and can see the end result, but get bogged down getting there. Provide as many templates and checklists to make the process as easy as possible. For example, if your team members need to create a 2-page, break it down into 5 distinct sections. Answering each one was only a paragraph or two, which is much more accessible than a blanket requirement for two pages.
5. Implement feedback. Some of the best project ideas come from suggestions from clients and team members. Circle back occasionally to follow up on what might have been missed. Team members who see their ideas are taken seriously have more buy-in to the process and want to be involved in its success.
6. Empower decisions. Give projects fully to team members. If they want a manager on for an initial call, they can help set the framework. Otherwise, just check in occasionally to see how things are going. Team members should feel complete ownership of their projects. Managers can step in to help with roadblocks, bottlenecks, or additional resources, if needed.
7. Develop leaders. Put your team members in the spotlight whenever possible. Whether it’s fostering relationships with industry associations, mentoring new specialists, sharing ideas and projects, and especially giving them the credit when things go well, let your team members shine. It creates a sense of professionalism and pride in their work. When they have the right contacts to do projects well, they almost never disappoint.
8. Solve problems. The genesis of our industry leadership program was frustration from both our U.S. and overseas staff at a lack of a career path. It also came at a time when our management was encouraging deeper specialization and dovetailed with a move to value quality assistance over sheer numbers. The program we developed answered all of those problems, as well as giving us more opportunities to raise our profile and get local media coverage.
9. Create Community. Being a global team makes it hard to get to know each other. Find ways to help team members create relationships. Pair up team members to work on projects for overlapping years. Create a unique identity. And of course, whenever you can get together, make up for lost time with connection events after hours.
10. Have fun. People can tell if you enjoy your job. Encourage your leaders to create opportunities for fun and laughter. Develop a positive atmosphere and make sure your team members have a great time, too. Happy warriors are easier to work with and people are more likely to cooperate to get you what you need. Also, you get fewer ulcers and wrinkles, and that’s always a plus.
What are your best practices for leading a global or virtual team? Let me know in the comments!