Six Critical Skills for becoming a Successful Virtual Team
The Challenges of Virtual Team Building?
Virtual teams have their own set of challenges to overcome in order to be effective and to accomplish their goals. One American Company which worked with us had a division in Germany.
During a workshop we held for both their German and American employees, many of the challenges and frustrations of virtual team building and teamwork came to the surface. They are common to many virtual teams.
They will explain why most virtual teams need specific time and effort given to developing virtual team building skills in order to become more successful. These skills won't just happen in a virtual environment.
The Challenges of Virtual Teamwork:
Language barriers can create confusion and misunderstandings.
Time differences can mean some team members are alert and others exhausted. This may add to misunderstandings and limit effective and timely decision making.
Some team members may be less comfortable or lack expertise with "high tech" modes of communication.
Cultural differences can cause misunderstandings and may unwittingly create offences and tension on the team.
The development of trust and camaraderie may be hindered without adequate face to face, non-verbal communication.
Limited meeting time can short circuit the important process of team members learning how their experience, personalities and skills "fit" with other team members. Mutual encouragement and affirmation of contributions may also be hindered.
Solving problems will usually take longer and may not be addressed quickly enough for the customer.
Some of the members of the team described earlier met for the first time face-to-face in this workshop, even though they had worked together for more than 3 years.
Fortunately they were linked together by the best communication technologies in the world. However they still struggled with accomplishing interdependent tasks from remote locations as a team.
They also wanted to accomplish business goals for their customers in less stressful and more timely and effective ways.
Our workshop focused on developing some necessary virtual team building skills in order to improve their ability to work well together.
As a result their value to their international customers as a global resource was improved significantly and therefore their revenue and their "bottom line."
Our workshop focused on 6 critical skills that will help any virtual team work together effectively and have successful outcomes for their customers:
Creating a Team Charter. Included in the charter needs to be the team's purpose, goals, expectations, ground rules, and also processes for resolving conflict, solving problems and making decisions. A good team charter will provide a strong foundation that will prevent those pitfalls common to virtual teams.
Knowing and Being Known. Team members needs to both know and understand the unique strengths and skills each team member brings to the team. This helps to build mutual respect. A cross-cultural team may also need to understand something of each others culture and customs, insofar as they affect their work environment.
One team member said, “being recognized and respected by fellow teammates is very powerful and rewarding.
Building Trust. To earn people’s trust is to do what you said you would do, within the time you said you would do it. Each team member must learn the value of developing a positive track record with their teammates in order to earn their trust.
Being Accountable. The team needs to find specific ways to hold each other accountable in areas such as regular and appropriate communication; following through on what they said they would do; and dealing quickly with conflict and offences.
Communicating Authentic Appreciation. To become an effective team, team members must learn to recognize and affirm each members contributions and accomplishments – both the little ones and the big ones.
Creating Team Values. Developing a set of common core values from the start that include being proactive, caring, forgiving and being tolerant of one another, is especially vital to a teams ability to stay the course.
Most experienced virtual team leaders will tell you they wrestle with their role; their competancy and confidence. If they are honest they would say they need more virtual team building tools and skills - in order to develop high-quality virtual relationships with their teams.
If you are a virtual team leader here are some questions to consider:
Are you adequate and prepared to lead your teammates in today’s virtual environment?
Are you clear about the differences between traditional and virtual leadership?
Are you comfortable with leading people in another city or country? Do you understand the culture of that city or country?
Do you have the tools, knowledge and skills to succeed in the virtual team environment?
How well can you communicate “between –the- lines?”
How adept are you at on-line encouraging and coaching of your team members?
We believe that virtual teams can have a significant competitive advantage if they are led by team leaders who have the right tools and skills to help their teams become successful.
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