Managing Teams Virtually: Takes More Time But Not Impossible

Image: Managing Teams Virtually: Takes More Time But Not Impossible

Keeping Virtual Teams Connected

More and more often, leaders might have team members that are not in the same building, city or office. Some leaders worry about being effective, because if they can’t see the person, how will they know that work is being done? The reality is that with technology and our modern performance management system, leaders can assess output, engagement and even time spent at work.

There are many internet-based tools that allow for immediate, even visual communication. The advent of Skype, Facetime, Go-To-Meetings, WebEx etc. has essentially eliminated the concern that all meetings have to be face-to-face in one location. They now can be again, though you are not physically together. There are even some web-based tools that use the camera function of everyone’s computer, so that you can see that the person is working at his/her desk. Some leaders and teams prefer this option because it gives a sense of collegial community. The intent behind being able to see everyone is not monitoring, rather to have virtual teams members feel less isolated.

Performance Management with Virtual Teams

If the performance management system is set-up correctly with SMART goals, on a quarterly basis, then leaders can assess output. Team members can further break those quarterly goals into weekly tasks on which they could report. As leaders start to focus on what is being done and not where or how it is being done, they will become more comfortable with not seeing their team members every day in the office. Let’s also face it – we all have seen colleagues who seem to walk around the hall a lot or take a lot of coffee breaks, so physical presence in the office doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity.

A final element that will help in leading virtual teams is frequent, conscious voice/visual communication. What does take more effort is that, sometimes, leaders need to pick up the phone or Skype with a colleague where they could have just sent an email. Email is easier but there is something to be said about hearing someone’s voice or seeing someone’s face while talking about a small or important task. Also, inevitably, as it is social custom, small talk will either start and/or end the conversation which allows for the continuing building of a professional and personal connection.

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