In management, few of us have our team members sitting in the same room, yet Lipnack and Stamps, authors of Virtual Teams, point to research that shows people are not likely to collaborate if more than 50 foot apart. Without taking active steps to run these teams differently, they are doomed to failure.
Four key steps that will give virtual teams a chance of success are:
1. Communicate a clear and compelling goal, ideally in a face-to-face kick-off meeting. Teams need purpose, and a reason to care, otherwise they will merely comply to the minimum requirements rather than committing to the business outcomes, required by the team.
2. Confirm the desired deliverables required by the customer (internal or external), rather than those defined by the team itself, and measure the results by those standards (key performance indicators).
3. Agree when and how to meet in this virtual world, and provide regular progress updates on a shared medium, such as a collaboration website.
4. Be human! Successful teams work well when all team members are treated as unique human beings and not just as project resources. Having fun doing the job and celebrating success are all part of creating a motivating environment for teams to excel.
Virtual teams are here to stay! Being a good leader, requires us to adapt to the environment, not the other way around.