How do you recreate water cooler talk online? How do you build camaraderie between a team that has never met? How do you effectively show your colleague what you’re doing when they can’t see you? With talent scattered across various time zones and continents, virtual teams are becoming increasingly more common. The questions I posed above are just a few factors to consider when managing a virtual team.
Before you can consider the scope of a project, competencies of each team member, or type of technology to use, you need to understand how to effectively communicate with your team. Miscommunication is commonplace in the majority of offices where team members interact in person — imagine how much this problem is compounded in a virtual team setting. The following are a few ways to successfully manage and communicate with a virtual team:
#1 Understand idiosyncrasies
Everyone has quirks that can cause friction within the team. As a manager, take the time to get to know each team member, understand the language they use when getting their point across. Some people are long-winded and have a hard time getting their point across, while others are short and curt. Customize the way you communicate with each team member in a way they can easily understand you.
#2 Communication devices
Make it clear to your team which communication device is appropriate for their message. Sending out mass emails with long email responses is not always necessary or appropriate. Sometimes simple instant messaging is easier to get your point across. Sometimes a simple phone call is most appropriate. In cases where it is difficult to explain how you are doing something, video chat may be an appropriate communication tool. Provide clear examples of which communication device to use in different scenarios.
Be sensitive to team members working in different time zones. From the outset, make clear guidelines about expectations to response times for each other. Tell them what time is best to reach you and how long it will take for you to respond to them.
#4 Encourage non-work related communication
Because your team members can’t interact face-to-face, encourage them to share their personal interests in order to recreate the water cooler effect. A team that is able to be comfortable around one another may become more innovate and collaborate more effectively.
There are, of course, many other factors to consider but effective communication is a building block of every team. A team that communicates effectively is likely to achieve its goals and provide quality deliverables.