Are Out of Sight Teams Making You Crazy?
Remote offices, national sales teams, international projects, mergers involving multiple states, centralized departments cut off from the main office, and outsourced duties: What do these corporate entities have in common? Of course, the requirement for employee “virtual teams”.
I’ve provided consulting services to numerous businesses that use various virtual team configurations in a variety of contexts. No matter where they are located or what kind of business they are in, they all suffer the same problems, which I have highlighted. I want to assist since I’ve heard how miserable these companies’ bosses and staff members are. Here are some suggestions to help your business lessen the tension and worry brought on by the adoption of the modern virtual team.
Let’s start by examining the most typical difficulties I’ve encountered:
People fail to comprehend “why”
In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek cites research that shows decisions are made by the emotional component of the brain, not the logical or language-based parts. [blockquote-left]In person, we are far more effective at communicating our “why” because of our body language, passionate facial expressions, and tone of voice. Virtual teams frequently work on projects, tasks, objectives, or goals without truly knowing why they are doing it. These team members thus fail to grasp the “why” or become passionate about the work they are performing. This could result in a significant drop in production or, worse yet, an unwanted outcome.
A remote team leader and an on-site manager are common. If there isn’t an official onsite manager, you better know that a “de-facto leader” has taken over. The right hand frequently isn’t aware of what the left hand is doing when two or more people are making decisions and don’t have regular access to one another. This frequently results in scenarios where the team is given conflicting information. The team will choose its own course of action when a clear direction is not provided. Additionally, it increases the likelihood of upward communication situations involving “mommy vs. daddy” or triangle communication, both of which can result in serious, unwelcome drama. Drama weakens the virtual team and causes division within the ranks.
Uncertainty Regarding Expectations
Everybody has expectations for their immediate subordinates and managers. In actuality, there are frequently new expectations with every new project or client. Resentment develops when expectations aren’t met. We empty the mental garbage can of resentments stemming from unmet expectations. When that begins to overflow, we snap, which causes unplanned explosions or passive-aggressive conduct that jeopardizes the stability of our business. It is quite difficult to convey expectations between personnel who are not physically present to one another.
Wins Are Not Only Honored at One End
You have a variety of jobs and duties on each side of a virtual team. One side might be internal, and the other might be customer-facing. While the other may be tactical, one side may be strategic. In circumstances like this, one side could feel a sense of accomplishment even though the other side had done the majority of the work. The side without the sensation of success starts to question, “Are we doing it right?” when this occurs repeatedly over an extended period of time. The ability of this side to cooperate or follow instructions decreases as morale does.
Taking a “One Size Fits All” Approach to Leadership
One of my favorite quotes on leadership is, “My job is to find 40 different ways to move 40 different men.” In order for mediocre teams to become great or for great teams to break records, it is important to tap into each employee’s uniqueness and understand what they need in order to flourish. Most managers rank securing a good parking spot at the office and grabbing an after-lunch Starbucks in order of importance. Perhaps they want to do it, but finding the time to do it is difficult. In either case, managers find that leading virtual teams through group virtual meetings, group memos, and group emails is significantly simpler. This “one size fits all” approach never gives each team member the opportunity to exceed expectations.
Measurement of Accountability is lacking
It’s one thing to tell a group of people, “Hey, go do this!” Success is ensured by checking your expectations along the route. (Along with enabling leaders to rest easy knowing that the task will be completed on schedule!) It might be difficult for managers to keep track of the status of a project while working with virtual teams. Leaders are put on edge by this unknown, and virtual teams are cautious.
Misunderstanding a Message’s Intent
What makes you read this? With all the caps, I bet you believed I was yelling at you. Have you ever misinterpreted a text message from your spouse, a direct report, or your boss? Have you ever, typographically or using voice text, mistakenly conveyed the incorrect message? Even messages that are given with the best of intentions sometimes cause a lot of discord. With international teams that do not all speak the same native tongue, this can be a particular problem. Never forget that the message will be interpreted through the eyes of the recipient, not yours!
How can virtual teams collaborate more effectively?
Failure to address the aforementioned issues and a lack of concrete solutions will erode trust, reduce employee engagement, and result in serious issues on both sides of the team. How can our virtual teams collaborate more effectively to maintain the well-being of the company? A deeper study would be necessary to develop actual and pertinent solutions for your particular virtual teams to work better. Here are only a few of the options that have benefited my clients, though. They should guide you in the correct direction, I hope!
Full-on teenage mode
What do teenagers do when they first receive phones and begin texting one another? None other! Continue to communicate. Text messages, emails, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. Whatever the format, use technology to stay in touch and maintain those ties. Always keep each other updated! Reward each other frequently! Maintaining communication will guarantee that everyone is on the same page and that victories are shared by both sides of the virtual team! Fewer messages that miss their target or are poorly received will result from getting to know one another through the development of relationships.
Over the phone, instruct them
Have scheduled, one-on-one performance coaching sessions in addition to your online group meetings to assist your remote workers in advancing their careers. The effectiveness of your virtual team will be significantly impacted by this. By giving them the gift of coaching, you may let them know you care. Reach out for expert guidance if you don’t know how or if you don’t feel confident in your coaching skills (some leaders need training to understand how to do this remotely).
Talk about your goals and expectations. Collaboration is the secret to success. Success will not be attained by having one-sided expectations or “telling”. The terms of engagement must be agreed upon by both parties. Put everything on the table so that everyone can collaborate to develop the best procedures and techniques for cooperating going forward.
False face-to-face interaction
FaceTime or professional video conferencing can help restore some of the communication that is lost when people are separated. With video-based communication, facial expressions, and body language are easier to read.
Offer Written and Verbal Correspondence
With virtual teams, it is more difficult to maintain consistency in communicating or to swiftly explain a message. A message is more likely to stick if it is repeated in writing, ideally before and after a vocal debate. This is especially effective when working with teams where English is not everyone’s first language. Use a slide presentation or an agenda if the meeting is more formal. Send ahead of time so that your team members are ready and aware of what to expect. Just after the meeting, send a follow-up email with a recap of your virtual meetings. To truly generate clarity and alignment, include what you covered, commitments, and action plans.
No matter where they are, make sure to block off time to have a conference call with all of the staff. If you give each member an equal amount of speech time, it helps foster a sense of inclusion. To ensure that teams are engaged and prepared, strive to conduct these periodically and have a consistent agenda. The more chances you have to encourage team members from all groups to participate in projects, campaigns, etc. across locations, the better!
Try to meet in person at least once.
A minimum of one face-to-face encounter per year, if finances and logistics permit, is unquestionably worth the expenditure. Yes, even though the majority of the transaction could have been completed over the phone, developing a personal connection is usually beneficial to future teamwork.
Implementing these simple actions will significantly ease your life, even if working with virtual teams might be quite difficult. Create a relationship of trust, encourage open communication, and demonstrate your concern, and before you know it, both of your virtual teams will be operating at full capacity. You don’t have to lose your mind because something is out of sight!
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