Almost 20 years ago, professors Vijay Govindarajan and Anil Gupta from MIT Sloane found that 82% of virtual teams fall short of their goals. However, in the years that followed, researchers have revealed that while 66% of such teams failed to satisfy client requirements, well-managed remote teams can outperform those that work out of the same office. A secret sauce can turn virtual teams into productive super-teams. Here are three things that can help you develop such a secret sauce for your team.
Get things right from the very first day a virtual team is set up. Jennell Evans, CEO of a workplace performance improvement firm, suggests kicking things off with a physical meeting if possible. If that is not possible, or if yours is a previously co-located team shifting to a virtual set up, have a kick-off meeting to set expectations right. Highlight the goals, tasks, processes, checkpoints, and milestones for the team. Michael Watkins, author and professor at IMD Business School, also believes in agreeing on a shared terminology to avoid misunderstandings. This applies not just to cross-cultural teams but also co-located teams as their members might have different experiences and therefore, attribute different meanings to the same terminology.
Team meetings tend to be organic and collaborative, and it can be difficult to infuse these qualities into a virtual team meeting. A communication charter setting out the ground rules for virtual meetings can help in this regard, with guidelines on limiting background noise and muting oneself, keeping video on for a richer experience, coming in with meeting aids like presentations or documents for easier understanding, sticking to the set time-limits, and always sharing an agenda and prep resources before the meeting. It also helps to establish guidelines that go beyond the meeting – such as, what’s an acceptable response time for mails/ queries, which mode of communication to use and when, etc.
According to Ed Batista, executive coach, today’s leaders are providing less explicit direction to their employees and coaching more. Coaching virtually is a skill to be built up and needs you to keep in mind certain guidelines. For instance, coaching conversations can be freewheeling, so you need to be more mindful of the time you set aside. Schedule it during a less frenetic time and use 10 or 15 minutes at the end to reinforce key takeaways. Also, bear in mind that one-on-one coaching sessions do not always have to be through video-calls. Discuss with your team members to identify the mode of conversation they are most comfortable with and switch to audio if it can get the best results.
Jerry Acuff, CEO of Delta Point, believes that employees expect 5 things from their managers, right from competent job instruction, relevant information and recognition, to independence and leadership. It’s no different in a virtual environment. Take your team to success by catering to these expectations and follow these tips to create your team’s secret sauce.