How to Successfully Lead a Virtual Team
I've talked about my experience leveraging the expertise of a virtual team for research and data validation, but I am also part of a large virtual team. Being the only Australian in a U.S.-based marketing team has had it's challenges, but so many more rewards, so how do you get a virtual team right?
Deloitte have recently completed international research that shows that virtual teams cannot be run like their on-site counterparts. Here are the strategies that I have used to lead and be part of a successful virtual team.
Communication Is Key
Virtual teams need more structure and communication to be successful. My experience with the Business Support Services team, which provides association support services to organizations that need a little extra help, shows that scheduled meetings with a structured agenda and deliverables will contribute to success.
Sure, more meetings sounds like a huge investment in time and resources, but invariably it will lead to greater cultural alignment, fewer gaps in understanding, and, the biggest advantage, honest feedback.
Choose the Right Technologies
The University of Queensland promotes not only using technology to fuse together your team, but choosing the right software for collaboration.
There is nothing worse than having three places you need to check to even start you day. Be sure your team are all consciously checking and contributing to the same collaborative spaces. The Aptify marketing team uses Slack, and Aptify's BSS Team uses Google Sheets.
Key for both these teams are video conferences. Choose the right video conference software (we use Zoom) so that staff can see each other, look each other in the eye, hear and see each other laugh over shared experiences. Foster a greater connection between staff by truly understanding their work environment. It's okay if the dog barks in the backyard, or that Jen in the Chicago office knows I am wearing my ugg boots to our morning meetings. These experiences are humanising and add to the team (no matter how far away) learning and liking each other.
Understand the Decision-Making Process Will Be Different
Virtual Teams are made of many people, across time zones, countries, and cultures. With this rich cultural exchange also comes conflicting ways of arriving at a final decision.
Be sure your team knows how a decision is going to made, whether it's building a consensus, making quick decisions based on gut instinct, or relying on a team specialist to make the call, you must know how to arrive at an agreement.
Also, be aware that with a virtual team there will always be some distance (no matter how closely you follow my tips!), so be sure that staff with the most distance are always included in the decisions and are not left out.
Working with a virtual team allows your organisation to work around the clock and is a great way to exhance your working environment. If you would like to learn more about how Aptify can supplement some of your administrative tasks using a virtual team click on the link below.
About Angie Karpouzis
Angie Karpouzis is the Product Marketing Manager located in Aptify Australia's Sydney office. When Angie is not busy making people uncomfortable by tearing apart their favourite artist/film/tv show she is indulging in Sydney's live music scene or nerding out over popular culture. Engage with Angie on Twitter to discuss member engagement, how to build a community or email marketing.