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.