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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4. Watch out for performance peaks

Many virtual teams face a performance peak around the one-year mark, after which performance may level off or decline.

Implement strategies to overcome this peak by:

  • Defining team roles and accountabilities to minimize frustration and misunderstandings that can damage morale and derail productivity;
  • Reviewing and refining team processes regularly;
  • Examining team performance periodically by collecting feedback from various stakeholders to assess the team’s performance; and
  • Identifying barriers to high performance and ways to overcome these barriers.

5. Create a ‘high-touch’ environment

It’s hard to replicate a high-touch environment in a virtual setting. That’s why virtual team members should meet in person at least annually.

Other ways to facilitate a high-touch environment:

  • Leverage synchronous tools (e.g., instant messaging) to increase spontaneous communication;
  • Use tools such as electronic bulletin boards to create a sense of shared space;
  • Choose communication technologies that are most appropriate to the specific task. For instance, e-mail is good for simple information sharing, while conference calls are better suited for interactive sharing of ideas or plans; and
  • Make wider use of videoconferencing.

6. Choose the right leader

A virtual team leader should have both technical and soft skills. This person should set clear goals and direction, and revisit these as priorities shift.

The leader must engage team members in the development of team strategy, provide timely feedback to team members, be responsive and accessible, and
celebrate team achievements and successes.

Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance” (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-53296-6, $50) is available from major online booksellers.

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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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