Working remotely within a virtual team is not a new concept, and many more people have found themselves in this situation especially since 2021.
For those new to remote work, the transition can feel overwhelming.
Keith Ferrazzi, a #1 New York Times Bestselling author, had his firm spend two years researching virtual teams.
They found that 43% of employees say they are more confused and feel more overwhelmed when they move to remote work.
The general assumption that most people would know the answer to "what is a virtual team?" by virtue of the technology that has become an integral part of our daily lives, highlights a need for leadership communication skills development as well skills integration with staff within the spectrum of virtual teamwork.
One would think the ever increasing number of communication platforms available for texting, email, and instant messaging would make things less overwhelming, but in many cases, Keith’s firm found they are actually having the opposite impact.
Workers are left feeling like a rodent in a maze trying to find information.
Was that sent by email?
Or was it a text?
Maybe it was on Slack or a Google Drive?
What teams desperately need is effective leadership communication and collaboration.
Everyone in your organization should understand the hierarchy of communications.
For example, a text might mean something is more urgent and needs attention right away, while an email is more of a “get to this when you can” signal.
When sitting in a conference room together, it is easy to read the body language of your team members.
It doesn’t make up for it fully, but you can achieve some of the same level of insight by turning on the camera.
Whenever feasible, make video conferencing mandatory.
Be explicit in your directions and communications.
There is a psychological phenomenon known as “signal amplification bias” where we think we send more information than we actually do.
Give your team tangible action items and direction.
Once you have communication channels being utilized in the correct fashion, you can start to really collaborate.
Collaboration is not the same thing as consensus building.
As the leader, you want to provide an environment that brings out innovative ideas.
Keith suggests two practices you can try to encourage your team to collaborate and speak candidly:
1. When trying to tackle a problem, set aside a significant amount of time to discuss it.
Ninety minutes is ideal.
Present the challenge carefully and consider the ideas you want to spark.
Then break into small groups of 3 to 4 people.
The idea behind the small groups is that people will often speak more candidly.
Then reconvene and have the small teams present recommendations.
The topic owner gives the ideas a yes, no, or maybe. They ultimately have the accountability to deliver.
2.A different, and more rapid approach to problem-solving, is called the “5x5x5”.
There are three rounds of five-minute sessions.
Round one is the presentation of the problem.
Round two is spent clarifying questions to spur deeper insights.
Round three is feedback and recommendations.
This approach in a remote meeting starts to condition your team members to turn to one another for help and solutions versus remaining isolated and just relying on themselves for problem-solving.
Your team members must be willing to speak up in service to the mission and to one another.
You can reinforce this behavior by rewarding naysayers.
It will spur more criticism, but it will also spur more critical thinking.
Has your Mind ever wondered...
A frank, honest and to the point discussion without sugar-coating politeness, unnecessary pleasantries or flattering embellishments.
To speak freely and be heard clearly without fear of reproach are vital aspects of communication, especially in business.
It takes less time to bring the point across and the intention is not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but to improve productivity.
Removing emotion from the conversation equation allows teams to share their experiences, needs and expectations.
Stick to facts and results with an insult filter to get the message across without cruelty when dealing with someone’s incompetence, and be solution oriented.
You can start a candid conversation by opening with “If I may candor…” or “Speaking candidly about this issue…” - it’s often best to forewarn someone before engaging in candor so their brain may register that nothing you’re saying is meant to be offensive or emotionally unbalanced, you’re planning on speaking mind and trust they will receive the message you intended.
Has your Mind ever wondered...
A collaborating collective or group of individuals working towards a common goal, or for the same company that are geographically separated, often using communication tools & technologies to optimize productivity, meetings and monitoring.
Still to achieve the same quality of work and levels of productivity as they would if everyone was together at the office, only now it’s from scattered locations.
Agile leadership is essential for virtual teams to be working together successfully by means of using technology and tools to measure results.