“They don’t get it!” is a cry of frustration too often heard from managers of ineffective virtual teams. What they don’t get is what is expected to be delivered, or when it was due, or the ballooning costs. That lack of urgency and drive to get things done—something seems to be missing. Sometimes virtual workers themselves are missing!

How do you, the manager, get them to “get it?” Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends.” It depends on the ability of you, the manager, to learn and use best practices for virtual teams. It depends on your willingness to try new techniques for effective communication across distance and through varying media. It depends on your ability to reflect and to adapt these practices to the situation, individuals, and team.

Getting the virtual team to “get it” and become a truly high performing team requires learning and practicing virtual team management skills. Virtual best practices are different than those required for face to face meetings and in-person collaboration.

Virtual team meetings can’t be avoided. While virtual teams can allow for better work-life balance for workers, and offer environmental benefits, in the United States alone, researchers estimate that between three and thirty-four billion dollars a year are lost in productivity because of poor meetings. With good basic meeting management and using virtual team best practices, productive teams can deliver successfully. It starts with basic good communication skills and following these six virtual team best practices.

Virtual best practices are different, but the end goal to deliver results is the same. These six practices focus on HOW the team interacts, tools, and processes.

  1. Slow down to speed up. Take the time upfront to understand all the environments and cultures you are working in.
  2. Proactively create an authentic virtual personality and presence.
  3. Know and use your strengths and weaknesses. In particular: verbal and written communication skills, ability to influence, resolve conflict, receive and give feedback, delegate, and empower the team members.
  4. Spending at least twice the amount of time planning communications and engaging in communication. 
  5. Be a great host, create places where the team looks forward to and can meet for unplanned interactions. Make the implicit explicit, say out loud what seems obvious.
  6. Use good basic meeting management techniques and to create, foster, and force engagement and interactions frequently. 

These best practices were derived from research, reading, practice, and observing people that are naturally and intuitively excellent at working virtually. Working virtually may not be every manager’s first choice—but keeping a firm grasp on the best practices of managing virtual teams might be critical to helping your company weather the storm or remain flexible in a changing work environment.

Practical tip: Write or print out these best practices, or the one you want to focus on. Make it visible for you to see while working virtually.

This was excerpted from the article, Virtual Teams Best Practices