Human Resources

Create a Successful Virtual Team: Six Lessons

How can CUs ensure their virtual teams produce the desired results?

February 17, 2011
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The office of the future might not be an office at all.

As virtual teams become more prevalent, “going to work” increasingly will mean logging into work remotely or collaborating with people in different physical locations.

But too often, say authors Darleen DeRosa and Rick Lepsinger, these virtual teams fail to succeed because managers treat them the same as they do teams that share the same physical location.

Subscribe to Credit Union Magazine“That doesn’t work,” says DeRosa, who coauthored “Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance,” with Lepsinger. “Virtual teams and face-to-face teams are the proverbial ‘apples and oranges.’ Leaders who recognize this fact are the ones whose teams succeed.”

The authors studied 48 virtual teams to understand why some virtual teams succeed and others don’t. They found that unsuccessful virtual teams regularly fall victim to four pitfalls:

1. Lack of clear goals, direction, or priorities. Because it’s harder to communicate with and inform team members who are geographically dispersed, it’s often difficult to keep all team members focused on the same goals, especially over time.

2. Lack of clear roles among team members. In virtual teams, it’s especially important for team members to understand their individual roles and how their work affects other team members.

3. Lack of cooperation and trust. It’s harder to establish trust and relationships in a virtual environment. Over time, lack of collaboration can lead to a lack of trust among team members.

4. Lack of engagement. People can become bored and “check out” when there’s no dynamic, face-to-face interaction.

Eliminate these pitfalls and a team’s chances for success greatly increase. DeRosa and Lepsinger identify six lessons—excerpted from the book—for creating successful virtual teams.

Next: Six ways to create successful virtual teams

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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