We live and operate in a time of limitless possibilities; technology has made it possible to quickly and easily connect with others half way across the world at any given time at the click of a button. With all the enhancements in technology, there is now an ever-increasing amount of “virtual teams.” A virtual team also known as a distributed team or geographically dispersed team and consists of a group of people who work in different locations, time zones and possibly different organizations. These people work within the thresholds of technology to communicate and work together towards a common goal. Some of the most common types of virtual teams include parallel teams, networked teams, service teams, project development teams and production teams among many other types. With individuals dispersed all over the world, you may wonder “How are these virtual teams managed effectively?” With all the distance dividing the team members it may be easy to succumb to the notion that it is difficult, however, as long as certain management tactics are in place, it is relatively simple and effective to manage and successfully implement virtual teams.
Establishing Effective Communication
One of the first and foremost tactics that needs to be place when managing a virtual team is effective communication. If certain levels of communication are not met, the virtual team will not function to its highest ability. Some great leadership tactics to implement within a virtual team include first identifying the best type of technology to communicate upon that fits both the members and the situation most appropriately. Next, the managing member would need to make sure all team members have access to the form of communication and are comfortable using it. Once these two pieces have been successfully established, it is best to lay some basic ground rules regarding communication such as encouraging all team members to participate and voice opinions, concerns, and ideas openly as a group as well as to engage in proactive listening when a member is communicating. The truth is that communication can really either make or break a virtual team.
Without a clear purpose, all virtual team members are essentially lost. Goals and objectives need to be shared by all members, and all group members should also assist in the goal making process. A leader within a virtual group should supply all members with clear expectations and require some sort of measurability to be conducted. This is also an area where a leader may want to inspire creativity in the group and urge members to “think outside of the box” for new ways of thinking which could provide positive results for the goals and members alike. Members must be accountable for their actions and be capable of self-starting or self-management because in many virtual teams the members work without the effects of micromanagement and instead must be proactive and driven by a purpose.
True Leaders Lead by Example
The leader of the virtual team should demonstrate specific characteristics that are desirable of a leader, such as a listening ear, provide positive feedback, have a clear understanding of goals, and be willing and able to quickly assess a situation to provide the needed desirable results.