Help For Setting Up Your Virtual Teams

Chances are you or someone you know is managing or will soon manage virtual teams. Some of your staff may work from home, here in the U.S. or even in another country. Virtual teamwork has been a growing trend, but now it is a necessity. Although this type of teamwork gives businesses huge opportunities to continue to grow their company, it also brings unique challenges.

How can you ensure the work is being done efficiently and effectively?  What does project management look like with a remote team and how can you stay ahead of deadlines? How do you keep your team moving in the right direction? When tasks and deadlines are missed, it will likely cost your company money.

In today’s online world, there are endless tools to help companies manage remote teams effectively and efficiently!

And there are business lessons from decades past that still apply in this new work culture and environment.

Virtual teams can be more effective (when done right) than traditional work teams. To help get you started or simply reach peak efficiency with your existing remote team, we created a top ten list of tips for managing virtual teams.

Top 10 List for Managing Remote Teams

1. Set Goals and Objectives. “If you don’t know where you’re starting from, it can be tough to get where you are going.” We saw this quote recently in a book entitled Do More Great Work by Michael Stanier. Great work can only come if your team knows how their daily work impacts the organization’s overall goals. Set clear goals and objectives that are easy to measure. Clear goals help your team understand where they are doing well, and where they need work.

2. Conduct Ongoing Training Sessions. Training your team on key systems is critical to ensuring effective and efficient work. If you can help your team learn how to do their work efficiently, you set your team up for success. One of the advantages of a remote team is that you can hire some of the best talent from across the world. Yet without proper training and understanding of current systems, your team will waste time and duplicate efforts.

3. Find the Right Collaboration/Project Management Tool. The anchor of every remote team is a simple and effective collaboration software. We’ve used and helped other companies set-up several different collaboration systems/tools – Redbooth, ProWorkFlow, Trello, Slack, Zoho, Google, Wrike, Basecamp, Microsoft, and many more.  These tools centralize documents, tasks, activities, status reports, notes, and other important project information.

Without a clear system, hours of wasted effort and loss of critical information are inevitable. Some teams try to use e-mail, but e-mail was never designed to manage projects. If you don’t have an online software that helps assign tasks with deadlines, documents the status of projects, or keeps good records, something will be missed.

4. Set Expectations. It is important that everyone on your team understands their individual roles and responsibilities. Since team members work independently, each person must be clear on the team expectations and their role within the organization. Once you have clear expectations, you can institute accountability. Without accountability, projects will quickly begin to fall apart.

5. Don’t Let Your Remote Team Get Overworked or Overloaded. Especially in this time, your remote team members are not machines. Pay attention to how much work each individual member is assigned. Your project management tool will help you with this. Each member of your team has his or her talents that add value to the project. If one member is overloaded, the end product will suffer. Utilize the strengths of your team and spread out the workload as much as possible. This will avoid overwhelming your team.

6. Face-to-Face Time with Video Conferencing. Texting, emails and messaging is great, but sometimes you just need to see someone’s beautiful face. If possible, plan a few video conferences per day where your team can get together and check-in with one another to see how everyone is doing. Seeing a profile picture on Facebook or in emails isn’t enough to build camaraderie. And try to add some fun to these video conferences – schedule a virtual game of Charades or Taboo on Skype or Zoom.

7. Be Sensitive to Your Team in Other Time Zones.  This is vital if you’re managing individuals from other countries or team members across the U.S. Different schedules need to be respected and honored. Don’t give your programmer a call when it’s 4 am her time just to check up on a project. Be considerate of unique schedules.

8. Clear Assignments and Due Dates.  Every task must have a specific deadline and be assigned to a specific team member. With a remote team, it is extremely important that all team members understand what tasks they are responsible for and when they need to have them done. To work fast and effective, this is key! Clear expectations are key in order to hold your team accountable, in addition to having a good working environment.  This will save you hours of headaches right out of the gate.

9. Document…Document…Document. Encourage your team to document everything. Keeping track of all processes will help you become more efficient. As your organization grows or staff leave to pursue new opportunities, you’ll be grateful that you’ve taken the time to document your processes. You will be able to train new team members faster and reduce the amount of duplicated efforts.

10. Be Encouraging. The art of sending personal notes seems to be fading away…which does not make my mother very happy (at all!). Writing a note just to say thanks is both encouraging and considerate. As a team leader, you need to communicate and share with your team on a consistent basis. We love to share “props” to team members at every meeting. Be vulnerable. Encourage often. Send notes of thanks. With remote teams, feelings of isolation can be morale assassins. If your team only hears from you when things go wrong, they’ll lose respect and dread any communication from your office. Be sure to encourage when things are good, so you have respect when you need to make the tough calls.

Do you manage virtual teams?

What have you learned from the experience? We would love to hear your tips for managing remote teams.

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