Requirements: Experience leading virtual global teams
As we continue deeper into 2020 and the COVID pandemic situation, I am starting to hear stories about team leadership challenges and availability bubbling to the surface. At first our main concerns were safety and getting everyone home and set up to work remotely. At MTI we managed a number of projects helping customers get their employees remotely connected at home, securely, and without placing company assets at risk. However, now we are on to “part II” of this new normal we keep hearing about. “How do we effectively manage our virtual global teams?” With over 20 years’ experience consulting and offering training sessions on leadership, I thought I would provide you with three general tips that might help you gain better insight into how your team is performing, what their morale is like, and how they are continuing to keep themselves motivated to success.
Intentional Connection Connection with one another happens naturally when we are co-located in the same physical space. You see each other, smile, say “hello”, small talk, and continue to connect through both language and physical presence. It’s often unintentional but serves a connection purpose. With a virtual team, that casual interaction goes away. As leaders you need to be intentional about how you continue to build and nurture the rapport with your team. Suddenly you are faced with having to schedule and book time for connection. This is not a problem, this should not feel weird, this is part of working with a virtual team. A daily call is all that is required to replace the normal interaction you might have if you were both in the office. Possibly schedule a morning 15 minute chat or an end of day chat, regardless of what you decide, ensure the opportunity is there for regular communication. There is no better way to hear how someone is doing then to listen to their voice. Use Your Tools Email, phone calls, text messages, social messages, the list goes on with the tools we have today at our disposal. Maximize their use when leading your virtual teams. Team meetings now should be on platforms that contains a chat feature, whiteboard, and most importantly a webcam feature. While at first seeing someone sitting in their home office was different and might have been a bit uncomfortable for some, the reality is that if we are to continue to be a high performing team, we need to “see” the 55% of the communication model that is conducted through body language. Tools like the webcams, the whiteboards, and even the chat features ensure engagement in our meetings. Make full use of these tools and try to avoid just an audio conference line for all your meetings. Collaboration happens with high interaction and high interaction begins when we can hear and see each other. Define Your Virtual Meetings As a leader during a pandemic you have lost your water cooler conversations. The casual “fly-bys” are gone. No one is meeting you for lunch. Therefore all our interaction need to be virtual meetings and we are now faced with identifying what type of meeting we are conducting for our teams. Meetings come in all shapes and sized and serve many purposes, but now a good leader needs to define the type of meeting to ensure preparedness from the team. “Is there a decision that needs to be made?” “Is this a troubleshooting session?” “Is this a casual – how’s it going – meeting?”
Defining meetings and ensuring the audience understands the desired outcome for the meeting is an easy tip that makes a big difference in your productivity and communication overall. This is not hard, but it’s one of those items that will take some getting used to and will require a bit of a habit to be built in order to see the success. Leading virtual teams is not hard – it’s just different. It’s more intentional about your actions as a leader and while it may seem fake at first, you will quickly realize your team is embracing it just fine.
We have led many virtual teams across several time zones for a lot of years. If you truly are struggling with this or have a question – feel free to reach out.