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5 Tips On Managing Virtual Teams (From A Virtual CEO)

Virtual team management is not easy.

It sounds great for everyone to wake up in their pajamas and crank out work all day…but the fact is that managing virtual teams has a whole other host of challenges.

But I’ve been through it…so enjoy these first-hand tips to maximize your effective virtual teamwork.

Tips For Managing Virtual Teams

1) Hold Daily Huddles

I recommend that meet with your virtual team daily (every other day at the least).

See my article entitled How The Ritz Carlton & I Run Our Meetings: The Daily Huddle for my approach to such huddles.

These huddles can be via conference call or video-conferencing if you can afford that.

The main reasons for frequent huddles (which can be 15 minutes or less) are:

  • Speed — You will iterate faster
  • Alignment — You and your team will better stay aligned on objectives
  • Accountability — These meetings will hold you and your team accountable (it’s tough to hide poor performance when you meet daily or every other day)

2) Hold Periodic In-Person Meetings

For starters, for effective virtual team management, you’re still going to have to meet in person once in awhile.

If you are all in one country, I recommend you meet in person every other month — if that is not doable, I recommend you meet quarterly.

These in-person meetings are vital for such things as:

  • Setting longer-term goals — E.g. 3 year, 1 year and 3 month goals.
  • Virtual team building — Last I heard you can’t give hugs or high-fives over the Web!
  • Tackling discussion items that require 2 to 8 hours — Doing these virtually (i.e. over the phone) will be very stressful (especially since you and your team are already spending a lot of time on the phone)
  • Zoom-Out brainstorming — When you work virtually you tend to to be “zoomed-in” much of the time — you’ll need to leave your virtual workplace to zoom out on bigger picture/strategy items.

3) Use Document/Screen Sharing Programs — “Get on the same page!”

One of the biggest risks in virtual teamwork is that you and your team fall off the same page.

To help prevent that, I recommend you use such tools as:

  • Google Docs — This allows you to collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents together
  • ScreenShare Programs — These programs are are easy for showing your colleague what’s on your screen (screen-sharing programs I’ve used that I recommend include Mikogo, Join.me , the screen-sharing feature within Skype or Microsoft’s Live Meeting (all but Microsoft’s are free).

4) Hold A Regular Company-Wide Telephone Call

If you have multiple virtual teams (or your company is 100% virtual like ours), then I recommend that you hold a “Team Call” once or twice a month.

Topics for the team call can include:

  • An update on financials
  • An update on meeting objectives
  • Training the team on a skillset (perhaps how to use Google Docs, Mikogo or Live Meeting)
  • Praising team members for good work
  • Celebration of birthdays or anniversaries

5) Communicate Through The Appropriate Medium

Virtual team communication can be quite challenging…afterall, you can’t typically see another person’s expression or body language when you’re in a virtual office environment.

My general rule of thumb is that the more sensitive the topic to discuss, the higher the bandwidth communication you should use.

Here are examples of discussion topics and the communication method I recommend you consider:

  • Updates on product sales — Email is ok
  • Updates on a change in a company policy — Telephone preferable/email ok
  • If an employee is under-performing — Telephone is preferable (backed up by email)
  • Bad financial news — Telephone is preferable
  • If an employee needs to be let go or fired — In person is preferable/telephone is next best option (don’t do it via email!)

Leading virtual teams can be fun and rewarding…you just have to realize that it’s going to require some different approaches than working with your team in-person.

You’ll be mastering virtual teams before you know it!

If you liked this article, you may want to check out my article on Virtual Team’s Pros & Cons.

7 Comments

  • Soumyapr

    Thanks for your article. I have been working with offshore team for the past 5 years. I liked your first point on 'daily huddle'. This is so very important. Personally, I think any virtual or distributed team should use Sococo's team space. They create the office atmosphere thats so important to communicating or collaborating as a team. Lastly, communication through the correct medium. It is not possible to have just one medium of communication. You should use multiple channels and decide what you want to use each of them for.

  • Soumyapr

    Thanks for your article. I have been working with offshore teams for the past 5 years. I liked your first point on ‘daily huddle’. This is so very important. Personally, I think any virtual or distributed team should use Sococo’s team space. They create the office atmosphere that’s so important to communicating or collaborating as a team. Lastly, communication through the correct medium. It is not possible to have just one medium of communication. You should use multiple channels and decide what you want to use each of them for.

  • Soumyapr

    Thanks for your article. I have been working with offshore teams for the past 5 years. I liked your first point on ‘daily huddle’. This is so very important. Personally, I think any virtual or distributed team should use Sococo’s team space. They create the office atmosphere that’s so important to communicating or collaborating as a team. Lastly, communication through the correct medium. It is not possible to have just one medium of communication. You should use multiple channels and decide what you want to use each of them for.

  • robkelly

    Thank you for your post. I had never heard of Sococo. It looks like a more structured version of Google Wave (which some on our team have tested out).

  • http://www.robdkelly.com Rob Kelly

    Thank you for your post. I had never heard of Sococo. It looks like a more structured version of Google Wave (which some on our team have tested out).

  • http://www.robdkelly.com Rob Kelly

    Thank you for your post. I had never heard of Sococo. It looks like a more structured version of Google Wave (which some on our team have tested out).

  • robkelly

    Thank you for your post. I had never heard of Sococo. It looks like a more structured version of Google Wave (which some on our team have tested out).