how to manage virtual teams

For many years the world of business was gradually moving toward remote work to provide better work/life balance for employees. The recent pandemic only accelerated that shift as businesses everywhere scrambled to stay open after stay-at-home orders hit the nation.

After countless shutdowns left us all wondering what was next, one thing became clear… business leaders must learn how to manage virtual teams effectively in order to survive and thrive in today’s economy. 

The Challenges of Building Successful Virtual Teams

New technological advances give us the ability to facilitate operations at any time from anywhere, but it also brings new challenges to the table. Although every organization is unique, the secret to building effective virtual teams is the same.

Set up a support system that puts people first to encourage individual and collective growth. 

Although the dynamics are different, the underlying challenges of managing remote teams are well known. As with co-located teams, you need an ecosystem that:  

  • Overcomes Communication Barriers
  • Builds Trust
  • Creates Clear Objectives
  • Aligns Your Organization

Working With Different Personalities and Knowledge

Smart leaders know that diverse teams have dynamic perspectives. We see a wide range of personalities in the workplace, maybe even more so among virtual teams. The remote workforce is made up of young and old. They may be full-time freelancers, part-time freelancers, entrepreneurs, freelance business owners, etc. 

A key part of building effective virtual teams is to cultivate a culture of resilience and mutual respect. The difficult part is bridging the physical distance and creating an environment for meaningful remote employee engagement

It’s no secret that strong relationships thrive on in-person communication. The term social facilitation describes the fact that some people are more productive in an office environment. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met, make sure that remote work doesn’t prevent people who prefer to work in the office from doing so. 

Coming Up With a Clear Process

Process and productivity go hand and hand. An effective process is made of moving parts that allow coworkers to collaborate. Having a system where people can plan, report, update, and brainstorm is essential to success. 

  • Specify team member roles, so everyone understands their responsibilities and knows what is expected of them. 
  • Successful teams define their vision, objectives, and desired outcomes—along with how they will accomplish those goals. 
  • Have a clear workflow. Workers need to follow a set of processes to ensure that their work is satisfactory. Set deadlines and designate time for regular updates from virtual team members. 
  • Keep it flexible. A well-thought-out plan is necessary, but the process needs to be flexible enough to keep moving if things change. 

Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction

Text-based communication may be ideal for certain situations, but it often causes conflict. Facial expressions and body language can communicate positive intentions and keep us closer. 

Despite the many tools we have to stay connected online, a lack of face-to-face interaction can be isolating, which can degrade team unity. Nonverbal cues from face-to-face meetings often provide the clarity needed to avoid miscommunication at times.

Lack of Training

Onboarding is a crucial part of managing remote teams. Poor training or lack of training can set us up for failure. This means that companies need to take the time to design deliberate processes that encourage success.
A surprising number of companies don’t have a solid onboarding process. Most new hires don’t know what to expect, and you only get one chance to make a first impression. Invest in the time and effort to make new team members feel like a welcome addition to the family. 

Lack of Cohesion

You may be worried about people’s work becoming unsatisfactory due to loss of morale or disconnection. Collective focus is the glue that holds teams together. 

Effective leaders ensure consistency by building a culture that empowers individuals to stay grounded emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This kind of support creates a ripple effect of positivity that can make big waves in an organization.

Micromanagement and Delegation

It takes finesse to know when to get involved and when to take a hands-off approach. You need to balance the need for clear expectations with faith in your teams’ abilities.  

Result-oriented managers know that empowerment leads to happiness, and happier people perform better. People of all ages and from all walks of life value autonomy. Many workers appreciate this kind of trust and see working on their own terms as a privilege.   

How to Manage Remote Teams Successfully 

While most management experience translates well into remote team management there are still some powerful best practices for building successful virtual teams that you can incorporate to give your team an edge.

There are a variety of project management tools, tools for online meetings, and collaboration platforms that can help you stay on top of projects but it can be confusing to know what is going to work best for you.

Below are 8 of the best practices for how to manage virtual teams successfully.

1. Schedule Weekly Video Call Check-Ins

A little facetime goes a long way. A weekly video call is a way to get everyone on the same page. These meetings facilitate:

This aids productivity during brainstorming sessions. People can bounce ideas off each other in real-time and get feedback. 

Too much back and forth about a certain issue can slow down production. We can avoid overcommunication or under communication with weekly meetings. 

We tend to build more empathy and trust when we make eye contact. Face-to-face meetings help us maintain good rapport.

2. Facilitate Daily Engagement

Overcommunication is a good thing when it comes to team member tasks, duties, and responsibilities. If you have a diverse team made up of people from different cultures, you need to think carefully about how to establish an ideal environment for remote employee engagement.

Tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams are often used for communication between team members to socialize and collaborate. How you optimize your ecosystem will depend on your business.

3. Create a Clear Project Plan and Goals 

When it’s time to make decisions, does everyone have enough information to make the most of their time? There is a higher likelihood of success if the company vision and goals are crystal clear.

Virtual power teams use management tools to keep track of smaller tasks and keep all the project assets in one place. With a clear understanding of their roles and objectives, people will have the tools they need to work efficiently. 

4. Prioritize Work Based on Results

If you don’t have your priorities straight, work can feel sluggish. If this problem persists, it can affect morale. Be proactive and manage your priorities by developing these managerial superpowers: 

  • Determining tasks that are urgent vs important tasks.
  • Giving tasks a finish date. Be flexible to account for shifts in priorities. 
  • Reviewing backlogs to find patterns.
  • Learning to predict uncertainties and make plans to address unknowns. 

5. Leverage the Global Workforce

The beauty of remote work is that we aren’t restricted by borders or times zones. Although it’s the new norm; the idea of geographically distributed teams was borne out of the necessity to save money.

With 24 hours to work with, you have more time for production. One strategy is to follow the sun and schedule team members can work during daylight hours. 

  • Hong Kong team assigns a task to the German team at the end of their day. 
  • The team in Germany would then pass the task on to the team in America at the end of their day. 
  • Finally, before the Hong Kong team is ready to start their day, the task has gone full circle. America sends it back to Hong Kong for the next phase. 

6. Build a Shared Knowledge Database 

A database is an ideal place to share important documents for reference. A shared knowledge base that is accessible by everyone ensures that everyone has the same information. This can prevent miscommunication, answer questions, and speed up delivery. 

Another good way to keep the lines of communication flowing is to give each team a group chat room that is open at all times. 

7. Make Meetings More Effective 

There are always easy ways to make meetings more productive and effective. The challenge is finding out how to do this. Productivity isn’t the only factor to pay attention to when optimizing team meetings. 

Many things that happen in meetings affect the way we behave outside of them. As a role model and team leader, you can gain insight by paying attention to the behaviors and norms that emerge during meetings. 

8. Embrace Empathetic Leadership

Innovative technology has led to many improvements in the way we conduct meetings but never count out the human factor. Just as with autonomy, the workforce as a whole wants to work for someone who understands the challenges of virtual teams

We all want an opportunity to grow. To be better and make the world around us better. A few of the main reasons people love remote work include:

  • Convenient scheduling
  • No commute
  • Family (caretaking for children)
  • Productivity
  • More opportunities 

Hire a Corporate Motivational Speaker to Boost the Effectiveness of Your Virtual Team

Sometimes all your team needs is a strong boost of motivation to inspire ideas for rapid personal and professional growth and development.

Corporate speakers are known for bringing change to organizations looking for blueprints on how to best manage remote teams. Adam Markel shares practical wisdom alongside firsthand tales of success to inspire, motivate, and teach teams how to build resilience and thrive. 

As a successful corporate motivational speaker who has studied resilience and worked with thousands of people, he’s proved that a change-proof mindset is key to long-term growth. The Way Forward, Adam’s highly interactive keynote speech involves a series of small but meaningful pivots that help prevent burnout, build resilience, and empower growth.

Book Adam today to get your virtual team operating more productively and feeling excited to drive home your core business goals together as a team.