It’s undeniable that remote working and virtual teams have become increasingly popular across the world in recent months. In fact, one of the main pursuits of many organisations has become mastering virtual teams and improving their overall approach to virtual work.
With remote working policies getting a complete makeover and home office supplies selling like hotcakes, it’s safe to say that virtual work is here to stay for the long haul.
If you’re looking for a guide to mastering virtual teams, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article we’re going to explore the foundation of virtual teams. These are the elements that you’ll need to consider as you go about improving your approach to virtual work.
Based on our tried and tested Virtual Leaders program, we hope you’ll find this framework for mastering virtual teams useful.
A Framework for Mastering Virtual Teams
PSYCHOLOGY OF VIRTUAL TEAMS
For virtual teams to work effectively, there needs to be a conversation around expectations. This includes expectations around response times, having a generosity of assumption and recommitting to regular feedback.
Through managing expectations we provide our virtual teams with the clarity, focus and framework that’s required to create psychological safety.
To effectively create behaviour change and see a high adoption rate of the desired behaviours, you’ll need to set the standards and consistently role model them as a virtual leader.
This includes setting boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘home’ and encouraging others in your team to set and uphold their boundaries. Further to this, a crucial element of setting the standards is creating a Team Identity Charter. Created through deliberate, collaborative team effort, this tool will act as the guiding light towards distributed work excellence.
The mindset you hold drives the results that you’re able to achieve, so it’s a worthy focus for any virtual leader. With change being our only constant in the current environment, we need to adopt and encourage a growth mindset within our organisations to see long-lasting success.
Mindset can also show up in the language we use to describe our state and workplace situations. When we direct our attention towards what’s external to our locus of control, we’re going to be struggling against the current. By shifting our mindset, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities.
It’s only natural that we’ll come up against roadblocks, but in a distributed working environment these roadblocks often have a lot more sticking power. Exploring the four roadblocks to progress and their antidotes gives virtual leaders a practical framework that they can use to overcome the challenges that they and their teams will inevitably face.
METHODOLOGY OF VIRTUAL TEAMS
Achieving high performance, regardless of team size and industry, requires regular feedback. In a distributed working environment, feedback cycles need to be re-established. While regular feedback is more important than having infrequent, long feedback discussions (like performance reviews) it’s important to use the correct language and approach to feedback in order for it to have a positive impact.
While BAU goals and KPIs are often a necessity, in the distributed working environment it’s useful to think bigger and set team goals that drive connection. After deciding on new team goals it’s important to establish what success looks like and define the different steps towards achieving the goal that will indicate progress.
Our rhythms and rituals drive our productivity and performance, so in order to achieve our goals we’ve got to establish and actively engage in these operational rhythms. In the pursuit of peak performance, virtual leaders need to consider how they’re structuring their own workday as well as how they’re supporting their team in creating a balanced routine.
Moving to a distributed work environment requires new rituals. To make them stick, these rituals need to be consistent, non-negotiable and most of all, have a ‘human’ element. Not only are team rituals important to establish, there are individual rituals that can be valuable to commit to as part of a daily or weekly routine, as well as rituals for certain purposes like collaboration and team-wide announcements.
TECHNOLOGY OF VIRTUAL TEAMS
There are two distinct types of tools that show up in a distributed work environment; ‘people’ tools and ‘tech’ tools. On the ‘people’ side of the equation we’ve got rituals, culture and ambition, and on the ‘tech’ tools side we’ve got spreadsheets, communication mediums and reporting tools. To achieve virtual leadership success, we’ve got to clarify the use of each of our tools and make sure that they’re being used to their fullest potential.
With so many different virtual communication mediums on the go at once, it can be easy for messages to be missed and for platforms to be used as a dumping ground for information. It’s crucial that there’s a clear purpose for each communication medium that’s communicated to the wider team as well as visual progress tracking measures to help motivate our virtual team.
As a virtual leader, you’ll need to make use of engagement techniques when hosting team meetings and facilitating one-to-one conversations. There are plenty of distractions in a distributed work environment, so making use of visuals, non-verbal communication principles and shared visuals will help to keep your people engaged. To maintain motivation levels it’s also important to ensure that you’re communicating purpose and progress, and linking back to them when discussing projects and other work-related activities.
With progress being one of the strongest motivators available to us, virtual leaders should work to add agile score-boarding to their repertoire as soon as possible. This means creating virtual scoreboards that are easily accessible and viewable by the whole team, are regularly updated and are visually engaging.
While it may seem like a lot to master, there’s no doubt in our minds that your pursuit in mastering virtual teams is worth your time. Achieving high performance in a virtual work environment is entirely possible; we’ve seen it with our own eyes.
If you’d like to see this framework in action, take a look at the work we’ve done with Queensland Health to transform their leaders into exceptional virtual leaders. And if you’re keen on some help along your own virtual leadership journey, take a look at our Virtual Leaders program.