In remote and virtual teams the creation of a unity of purpose and emotional connection within a group is essential, otherwise team members can feel undervalued and question the difference their contribution makes. Managers with the ability to manage the successful collaboration of virtual teams and the skills necessary to lead virtual and remote teams are an essential element in delivering high performance, results across multisite and multinational environments.
Managers need to build effective strategies for dealing with barriers to manage a collaborative and efficient team. The challenge of building relationships must not be underestimated . Managers must be adept at fusing the disparate resources at their disposal into a united and coherent whole, despite having limited or sometimes no opportunity to build relationships face to face. This is especially pertinent for ad hoc virtual teams working on a particular project as they have to accelerate team development in order to deliver the project on time and within budget.
Here we present the challenges associated with building relationships and some practical solutions to building relationships remotely.
- Cultural differences.
- Time zone.
- Hard to keep them in the loop.
- Having different expectations.
- Making virtual teams feel like a group.
- Finding out where people are emotionally on a day-to-day basis.
- Keeping people motivated as if they are not then they can go off and watch Judge Judy.
- Helping people feel a sense of belonging with the wider company so they feel connected.
- The lack of the water cooler effect.
- Trusting people are getting on with their job.
- Knowing where people are.
- At the beginning of the relationship set out the ground rules and discuss preferences in terms of ways of working and personality styles (using behavioural profiling tools like Myers Briggs and DISC can help).
- At the beginning set out your camp in terms of what you are like as a manager, what you want, how you will communicate, defined timelines to responses, and when you are both contactable.
- Ensure there is a thorough induction.
- Always ask how people are, how they are feeling, how motivated they are and other related open questions.
- Deliver and respond on what you say you will is even more important.
- Try and meet face to face at least once a year.
- Be available.
- Have virtual coffee/lunch catch ups to create water cooler moments.
- Have team days/workshops.
- Ensure there is always a date that people can get their fix of the company or their colleagues.
- Find reasons to get them into the office so they feel a part of it.
- Provide a home manager for people in different offices so they have someone looking out for them in their place of work.
- Share acronyms and abbreviations with people.
- Attend cultural awareness workshops or read books/pamphlets that you can get if you are managing someone who works in a different country.
- Have buddy schemes internally so remote workers can build up more of a support network.
- Work out when best to hold meetings and shift the timings so that it is fair to as many as possible.
- Keep track of holidays and birthdays.