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7 ways to help you manage a virtual team

Image: Virtual teams.

As technology improves so does our capability to communicate. Over distance though this communication can break down, so whether you’re a HR professional wanting to streamline the process of remote working, you’re managing a team in the same location, or are a member of a team which is spread over a physical distance, these seven tips will help make your work environment a harmonious one.  

1. Build trust

Trust in your colleagues starts with being able to speak openly to discuss individual ideas without ridicule or judgement.  Employees should be comfortable with having conversations where they can be honest and frank with each other as this will help build strong relationships not matter where they are located.

2. Set guidelines and expectations

The ability to construct ‘team norms’ or guidelines to use as a roadmap to virtual team success is a great enabler so your colleagues have the chance to contribute in a ‘safe’ environment. When employees feel ‘safe’ they are more open to sharing ideas and discussing these with their peers.

3. Communicate regularly

Providing proper communication in both a timely manner and with more frequency helps to knit a team together. By being informed of what is going on helps to positively empower staff to come up with new ideas and work efficiently.   Make sure your employees have the tools to communicate at any time with each other as this will encourage more idea sharing and communication to take place.

4. Understand your team

The ability to understand team members’ knowledge and expertise helps to build a psychologically safe environment. By working on people’s differences, a more holistic team can be built upon these skills and strengths. Employees need to take the time to understand their peer’s strengths as this will encourage collaborative work.   

5. Assign roles and responsibility

Support of team members given by` upper management and by each team member places the right people in the right place and helps to assign roles and ownership.  When we create roles for projects that fit very closely to what each team member is good at, the team members are empowered to take on that role because they already know they are good at it.

6. Build relationships

The ability to build meaningful relationships with colleagues helps to motivate people to do a good job and encourage each other to achieve more. Building relationships is key when working within a virtual team as this is what will ultimately help employees succeed as a team.

7. Use technology to communicate

Different ways or means by which to communicate will help to increase cohesion – shared documents, video calls, instant messenger etc helps to create a less formal ‘email to email’ relationship.  It is important that employees have access to these tools as much as they can. Without the tools to communicate regularly it will be difficult for strong relationships to be built.

Read more!

This is based on the research paper ‘How virtual team leaders cope with creativity challenges’, published in European Journal of Training and Development (Vol. 41:3) You can find out more about remote working, the difficulties and solutions here.

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