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ght Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsIf you are a manager in an organization that relies on virtual teams, then you are alltoo familiar with the challenges of leading team members in different locations. Onedefinition of virtual teams is “groups of individuals that work across time, space, andorganizational boundaries and who interact primarily through electroniccommunications” (Society for Human Resource Management, “Virtual Teams,”2012). In fact nearly 50% of all organizations now rely on the work of virtual teams.Organizations have come to depend on them in order to recruit and retain toptalent anywhere in the world, collaborate across geographic boundaries and reducetravel costs.With the development of better web conferencingplatforms, strong collaboration software, and enhancedproject management and communication systems, thetechnological barriers preventing effective virtualteamwork have been lowered significantly in the past fewyears. However, these changes require managers to adapttheir leadership skills to the realities of working virtually.Many experienced managers new to the virtual worldreport hitting obstacles such as: Poorly defined processesInability to build team cohesionTime zone differencesWorkload distributionCommunication challengesLack of access to technology or technical supportTo work successfully with dispersed team members, virtual leaders may capitalizeon the 3C Model: Calibrate, Collaborate, and Celebrate. To calibrate the work oftheir team, they ensure that everyone has clearly-stated goals and expectations aswell as progress-reporting systems. To collaborate, they build opportunities forteam members to work together to achieve shared goals. To celebrate, virtualleaders plan time to appreciate and recognize results (in one-on-one conversationsand team meetings).Great virtual leadership happens with careful planning and conscious attention tothe needs of virtual team members. In this ebook, we describe eight essentialstrategies (summarized in the mnemonic GAMEPLAN) applied by powerful virtualleaders. Your virtual GAMEPLAN can be used as a checklist to help you get the bestresults from your team. As you review these eight strategies supported by 19management techniques, choose which ones you intend to implement. Here is theGAMEPLAN mnemonic:G Grow TrustA Attend to DiversityM Manage AccountabilityE Expect TeamworkP Plan MeetingsL Leverage TechnologyA Appreciate and CelebrateN Nurture Relationships 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 1

ght Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsGrow Trust1. Share and discuss cultural norms with every team member.AMEPLANThe culture of an organization surrounds all its activities, yet goes unnoticedconsciously, like water to fish. Team members who meet face-to-face absorbcultural nuances each day. Virtual teammates may not share the sameawareness. It may even seem as if they swim in a different ocean. To increaseeveryone’s cultural awareness, communicate the organization’s vision, purpose,and values in formal and informal conversations.Take Action: How will you introduce, describe, and discuss culturalnorms and values with your virtual team?2. Set ground rules and expectations.Virtual team members look to you as the team leader to clearly describe yourexpectations for communication, participation, and teamwork. You may chooseto collaborate with your team to identify the ground rules for solid teamwork.Keep those ground rules handy and review them regularly with the team. Usethem as a touchstone when a conversation may be veering off track. One teamleader has collaborated with his team to identify the ground rule, “Be curious.Keep an open mind.” He finds that all he has to do is remind the team to “staycurious” when they are involved in a difficult discussion.Take Action: How will you set ground rules and expectations with yourvirtual team? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 2

ght Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsGrow Trust (continued)3. Establish communication channels.To work successfully withdispersed team members,virtual leaders may capitalizeon the 3C Model: Calibrate,Collaborate, and Celebrate.To calibrate the work of theirteam, they ensure thateveryone has clearly-statedgoals and expectations aswell as progress-reportingsystems. To collaborate, theybuild opportunities for teammembers to work together toachieve shared goals. Tocelebrate, virtual leadersplan time to appreciate andrecognize results (in one-onone conversations and teammeetings).Virtual teams work best when everyone is on the same page about how, when,and what to communicate. Identify the right technological tools for thecommunication need. For example, a tool like Yammer might be useful forquestions that need immediate responses. A private Facebook group might bethe place to create a “virtual water cooler” for more social posts. A documentsharing site (such as SharePoint) might support team collaboration. (Of courseyour company or organization’s IT staff may have already negotiated contractswith software vendors to gain access to tools like these.)Take Action: What communication channels would benefit your team’sability to work together? What technological tools will you adopt?4. Respect time zones.For some teams, that may mean scheduling virtual meetings that avoid thelunch hour in any time zone. For other teams, that may mean that the office inSingapore gets to schedule the next virtual meeting during their daytime workhours. Pay attention to the tendency to schedule meetings for the convenienceof a core group of staff in one location. Instead, vary meeting times to meet theneeds of team members in other time zones. Some teams find it useful toconsult a time zone scheduling website, such as World Clock Meeting Planner,to find ideal times and to state meeting times in all the necessary time zones.Take Action: How will you respect time zones when schedulingmeetings? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 3

EPLANEight Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsAttend to Diversity5. Build virtual presence.We define virtual presence as “the degree towhich a leader is perceived as a ‘real’ persononline.” Leaders who are willing to putthemselves on camera (using their webcams) during virtual meetings find thatambiguous communication andmisunderstandings are often reduced.Unfortunately, our research reveals thatmany virtual managers continue to rely onteleconference calls and emailed documents to conduct virtual meetings. Weencourage you to take your virtual presence up a notch by adopting a good webconferencing platform (Adobe Connect, WebEx, or Microsoft Lync, for example)with the capability of streaming videos of the leader and team members.Take Action: What will you do to increase virtual presence as theleader of your team? What will you do to encourage team members toincrease their virtual presence?6. Create a Talented Expert directory.Operating without informal opportunities to connect socially, your virtual teammay benefit from creating a directory of Talented Experts. Encourage everyoneon the team to share their bios, describe their skills and experiences, talk abouttheir passions, and upload photos. Help everyone get to know one anotheracross time and space. It may be as simple as creating a folder for each personon a document sharing site. When forming a project team, ask everyone tocheck out their team mates’ information online.Take Action: How can you build a Talented Expert directory for yourvirtual team? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 4

ght Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsAttend to Diversity (continued)Operating without informalopportunities to connectsocially, your virtual teammay benefit from creating adirectory of TalentedExperts. Encourage everyoneon the team to share theirbios, describe their skills andexperiences, talk about theirpassions, and upload photos.Help everyone get to knowone another across time andspace.7. Respect cultural norms and differences.If you manage a global team, pay attention to the cultural differences that maycreate confusion or conflict. Spend time introducing everyone on the team tothe various cultural norms represented by virtual team members. Take the timeto develop everyone’s cultural competence.Take Action: How will you build cultural competence on your virtualteam? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 5

EPLANEight Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsManage Accountability8. Set clear goals and targets.Because virtual team members may tend to feel isolated without the dailyconnections and clarifications that can be made when working in the samephysical location, it’s vital that goals and targets are clearly stated. Skilled virtualteam leaders report that they spend more time clarifying assignments in detail,checking for understanding and agreement. Clearly stated goals allow teammembers to focus on what’s essential without wasting their time onunnecessary activities. Gaining their commitment to these goals and targetsincreases your confidence that they are working productively.Take Action: How will you gain teammembers’ commitment to clear goalsand targets?9. Create progress reporting systems to monitorresponsibilities and results.Many new virtual team leaders find they areuncomfortable with the need to manageperformance and hold people accountable for results when they can’t see whattheir team members are doing. Without this view into team members’ ongoingactivities, leaders may begin to micromanage activities and schedules instead offocusing on results. Indeed, dealing with a boss’s micromanagement is one ofthe most frustrating challenges reported by virtual team members.To avoid this pitfall, set up reporting systems and request that every teammember use them. Have individuals post progress reports weekly. Develop thehabit of checking the reporting system first before requesting additionalinformation.Take Action: What easy reporting system can you put in place tomonitor responsibilities and results? How will you avoidmicromanaging your virtual team? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 6

MPLANEight Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsExpect Teamwork10. Encourage collaboration.Because virtual team members mayoften work alone at home or ingeographically-dispersed officelocations, they may sometimes feelthat their contributions are notwelcome or that their ideas are notsought out. Look for problems that canbe resolved collaboratively in teammeetings. Seek input from virtual teammembers before making decisions that may affect them. Use generativethinking techniques to capitalize on the knowledge and experience of yourvirtual team. It might be as simple as requesting two suggestions to resolve anissue emailed to you prior to the next team meeting, or as complex asscheduling a virtual meeting to brainstorm ideas together, recording them on awhite board in your web conference software.Take Action: What will you do to encourage team collaboration?11. Have sub-teams meet outside of team meetings.Some problems or issues may best be resolved through a sub-team tasked withresearching an issue and preparing a recommendation. Over time, if you giveteam members the chance to collaborate on different sub-team projects, youwill likely strengthen team members’ relationships while gaining better results.Take Action: How can you create sub-teams to work on issues andproblems? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 7

MELANEight Essential Strategies to Lead Virtual TeamsPlan Meetings12. Prepare and send agendas in advance of team meetings.Web conferencing software usually allows fordesktop sharing, chat discussions, recording ideason a whiteboard, and presentations usingPowerPoint slides. However, most virtualmanagers quickly discover that they must fightthe tendency for meeting attendees to multi-task.Sadly, many meeting attendees have developedbad habits from attending teleconferencingmeetings in which they placed themselves on mute and went about theirdistracted business, listening with one ear to the meeting discussion.It is critical that virtual leaders create clear agendas with planned interactionand engagement. Many virtual managers report that they take more time tocarefully prepare meeting agendas for virtual meetings. Try segmenting portionsof the meeting by the kind of thinking and participation you expect. Forexample, one meeting segment might be labelled “information sharing” whileanother might be identified as “idea generation” and still another as “decisionmaking.” Alert team members that you expect full participation when you sendout the agenda prior to the meeting.Take Action: How will you prepare meeting agendas withopportunities for interaction and involvement by your virtual team?13. Document discussions and action items.Make sure that decisions and tasks are well-documented. You may choose toupload meeting outcomes to a document sharing site, or assign tasks through aproject or task management system. Then review task progress oraccomplishment at your next virtual team meeting. Build your team’sconfidence that agreements and decisions result in action and achievement.Take Action: What systems and processes might support you indocumenting decisions and actions? 2015 Clay & Associates Inc./NetSpeed Learning Solutions Page 8

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