Tips, tricks, advice, and answers for the 21stcentury global workspace.
My boss has recently put me in charge of a virtual team, with members in three different countries. I find that many team members seem lax and uninterested during conference calls, deadlines are often ignored and as a result, overall productivity has become a real issue. If we all worked in the same office, I’d call the team into my office and sort out the problem – in this situation, however, I’m at a loss. Do you have any tips?
– Virtually Worried
Dear Virtually Worried,
It seems that your team is demotivated and needs a bit of help to get going. Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to turn this situation around! Take a look at the following ideas – they are quick:
1) Stay in sync: Frequent communication is necessary otherwise people begin to feel isolated. Connecting, whether via SMS/email/phone call/video call, helps remind everyone that they’re all part of a team working towards a common goal. A systematic check-in system usually works well. Pick a frequency, time, and method that work for everyone, and stick to it. Have a clear agenda, e.g., things we did last week, things to do this week, problems/issues. (TIP: Make sure your meetings don’t fall on Friday nights/weekends for members in any timezone – that will breed a lot of resentment!)
2) Praise generously: The value of praise is often forgotten in a virtual team, while criticism is still doled out regularly. Because there is lesser interaction than in a real office, a timely kudos becomes even more important. If praising an individual, a personal touch (like sending an SMS) is great. If the team has performed well, send out a congratulatory email to the entire group. Well-deserved praise keeps a team motivated and invested in their work. (TIP: If the task was significant, you can CC relevant team members/senior staff members as well.)
3) Take the fear out of conference calls: It’s often hard to talk to people you’ve never met and know nothing about – team members might be hesitant about expressing their views. Send out a “group introduction” email to the entire team with a photograph and short bio of each member – this basic introduction is an important step towards feeling like a real team. (TIP: Try and include one “light”/humorous fact about each team member – a great ice-breaker!)
Last but not least, a proper project management system will go a long way in ensuring that your entire team is on the same page – as a result, you should see continually high productivity.