Suddenly, teamwork in close proximity and enjoying the energy of face-to-face interaction has become a health hazard, and like so many of you, we had to vacate the office and restructure our working life for remote operations.
Some of you have been working in “virtual teams” for years, even decades. One of our clients has never been a “physical” company. One of our team members was previously part of a “department” that spanned three continents. But for some, this can be a wrenching change. Why?
Working in the “cloud”
Many of us are used to storing all files on our computer hard drive, or perhaps on a network server. Anything that cuts off access to that physical storage also cuts us off from our history, assets, records, and, in effect, our memory. In the case of physical destruction—by fire, earthquake, tornado, flood, or crime—or if massive data loss occurs due to malware or cyberattack, that cutoff can be permanent, and devastating. 60% of small to medium businesses fold within six months of a major data loss incident.
Luckily, this time the disruption was non-destructive. Still, our team has spent considerable time transferring data files to a cloud server. Had that been impossible, we might have been in real trouble. But now we’re ready for this—and any future—physical workspace disruption.
Virtue management for virtual teams.
Many old-school managers are really supervisors. They’ve been trained to think their job is to make sure others are doing theirs. An inherent level of skepticism is built into that mindset.
But when you have a good team, letting go makes them better. Teams that feel empowered and trusted make good, confident decisions. Cultivate an atmosphere that says, “I trust you do your best work. Work together to solve challenges. If you need guidance or someone to run interference for you, I’m here. I’ll protect you from the politics and the distractions. But in turn, I expect you to look for solutions before you bring me problems.”
Support creativity and transparency, and you won’t be blindsided by failures, because a team that trusts in their leadership won’t hide issues or roadblocks from them. Make sure progress on every priority task is reported. Keep an eye on the timeline and the big picture, and that’s it.
Sure, that’s difficult for traditional managers. But it’s absolutely critical for virtual team managers, whose team members are working from home, working at all hours, and reporting by conference call and email.
Meetings that actually get things done.
One of the great paradoxes of virtual teamwork is that meetings often are much more effective. Why?
There’s fewer distractions. Ironically, since everyone hates conference calls, people want to get the meeting objective accomplished and get off the call as quickly as possible. Help that along by calling a meeting with a hard-and-fast ending time.
There are still pitfalls to be avoided. Just like at conference table meetings, some people tend to dominate the conversation, some just listen—that’s human nature. Make sure you get everyone’s input, make sure everyone’s input is treated fairly, and make it clear that your final decision will be based on an idea’s merit, not its volume. You may find that people who have little to say have lots to offer.
The latest cloud-based conference software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack have great tools that can help everyone express themselves equally, tools such as shared screens, direct messaging and anonymous bulletin boards for brainstorming ideas impartially.
Want a team that can handle curveballs?
Despite all these challenges, Radial Marketing Group is still going strong. If you need help continuing your growth in challenging times, Contact us today for more information.
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