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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1. Focus on people issues

Creating successful teams depends largely on team member interaction. Virtual teams must to compensate for the inherent lack of human contact by supporting team spirit, trust, and productivity.

They can do so by:

  • Developing a team web page where virtual team members can share information and get to know each other;
  • Creating ways for team members to interact and communicate informally. Use real-time communication tools such as instant messaging or social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to create a virtual water cooler;
  • Building a collective online “resource bank” to share information and experiences;
  • Finding ways to “spotlight” team members;
  • Send electronic newsletters or updates to the team; and
  • Celebrating team successes.

2. Create trust

Task-based trust differentiates top-performing teams. Establish trust by bringing team members together face-to-face early on in the team’s formation. Devote part of this meeting to building relationships and learning about team members’ capabilities.

Other ways to build trust:

  • Empower team members to make and act on decisions.
  • Help people manage conflicts, not avoid them. Conflict that isn’t addressed may escalate.
  • Choose a team leader that models and reinforces these positive behaviors.

3. Embrace ‘soft’ skills

Lepsinger and DeRosa found that virtual teams that have been through team-building and interpersonal skill development activities perform better than those that have not.

Use team-building sessions—ideally conducted at an initial or subsequent face-to-face team meeting—to help team members strengthen working relationships and create team momentum that can enhance team effectiveness.

Assess development needs for team members and team leaders, and conduct skill-building focused on these areas. Reassess these needs over time.

Next: Watch out for performance peaks

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