Holding employees accountable, managing conflict and building trust and strong relationships amongst team members can be challenging for any leader. But add distance to the mix, and suddenly that challenge becomes much larger.
Virtual teams are more prevalent than ever these days, and with the evolution of technology, their use will continue to grow. However, virtual team building (and leading) is much different than composing and leading a team of in-person employees — a fact that is often lost on those tasked with building and leading these teams.
If you have been thrust into the role of creating and leading a virtual team, or if you’re already leading one and want to make it more effective, avoid these three common virtual team building mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Never Meeting Face-to-Face
While it may seem unnecessary or even difficult to get a team together whose members are located in different locations, doing so has several benefits.
Meeting face-to-face, especially early in the team’s formation, helps to foster trust among members, which helps build relationships. It also gives members time to get to know each other on a personal level, and create a vision for how the team is going to work.
If you cannot bring the team together in person, take steps to replicate what happens in an in-person kick-off meeting through a series of virtual sessions.
Mistake No. 2: Not Empowering Your Team Members
People on virtual teams do more than work remotely — they are expected to work more independently than their in-person counterparts. Give them the freedom they need to make decisions and delegate work, and you’re equipping the team with the tools they need to be more productive. Start by creating processes for monitoring work, and remember to follow up frequently. But try to avoid following up so much that team members feel micromanaged.
Mistake No. 3: Failing to Define a Sense of Purpose
Social loafing happens when team members decrease their efforts because they feel less responsible for the output. One way to counter this is by giving each team member a sense of purpose along with specific roles/responsibilities.
Define a sense of purpose for your virtual team by:
- Helping each member of the team understand how he or she makes a difference
- Keeping team members connected to the big picture
- Ensuring team members have what they need to achieve their goals
- Creating, reinforcing and supporting employee learning and development
The Bottom Line
Virtual leaders are often thrust into their roles without a clear understanding that leading a virtual team is different from leading one in person.
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