Construct a result-driven virtual team management strategy by following these seven steps to success
Remote-based businesses are popping up all over these days. When we think of these types of companies, the picture is typically a small tech start-up that builds social apps and cool software. But larger corporations, more and more, are beginning to hire employees for remote teams.
That’s great news! A virtual workforce can make positive impacts in a business of any size – as long as employers understand how to approach virtual team management correctly. Otherwise, disorganization and lack of communication will abound.
7 Virtual management skills you need to not just survive, but thrive
Step 1: Don’t try to be like the tech startup (devise a plan of action that works within your current framework)
Project management and team communication are different for larger, more established companies. Cool, craft-beer-drinking startups tend to have less organization, more relaxed performance measures, and constant communication. They can afford that type of system because their teams are much smaller. Self-management is king.
Larger businesses that emulate this type of approach won’t do well. Remote teams will feel exiled from lack of communication and direction. Or they won’t perform to their potential because of improperly trained managers. Stick to what you know works, then plug those principles into a new framework for virtual team management.
Step 2: Ease your way into virtual team projects and test the waters
You don’t want to rush into anything. Having a virtual team requires a new approach and sub-culture. Correct implementation takes time, but most of all, it takes planning, testing, and revision.
A few ways to ease virtual teams into your business:
- Have the team meet face-to-face with their assigned managers once per week either in person or via online tools.
- Make the entire line of managers, supervisors, and executives aware of how this team is monitored and tracked.
- Provide training for necessary tools and software that each virtual worker needs to succeed.
- Run performance tests to track the progress of the team and try new strategies.
Step 3: Hire a manager who has experience with remote teams
Virtual team management is unique. The set of communication skills differs for these particular managers. Obviously, it’s less about face-to-face skills and more about actionable virtual skills, like emailing, messaging, running phone or video conferences, and using remote-friendly software and tools.
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Step 4: Set clear expectations and create a daily structure for the team
Set a conference call first thing in the morning every day. Not a long one. Just ten minutes to go over what everyone’s goals are for the day. It keeps employees accountable (they have to show up in the morning) and provides a structure for their work days.
Second, managers should provide clear expectations for each person working on a project. Goals, deadlines, and time commitments. Since it’s not possible to “see” anyone getting work done, it’s important to create a deadline-driven work style.
Step 5: Humanize the experience! Meet face-to-face on a regular schedule (even if it’s once a year)
A good example of this would be Automattic (the company that brought you WordPress and WooCommerce) They’re an entirely remote company of over 200 employees working around the globe.
But once a year, the entire company comes together for an annual summit event. This builds the necessary face-to-face connections between teams, provides a social aspect everyone loves and provides a place to connect that virtual team management can’t deliver.
Step 6: Humanize part II—video conferencing is the go-to strategy
Video conferencing is invaluable for virtual teams. It provides that face-to-face experience which deepens connections between people and makes the day eventful in a small (and efficient) way.
Using the right software for the job is important, and there are plenty to choose from, like Slack or Google hangouts. Just make sure that you coordinate with people in different time zones and set a clear structure to the meeting, so it doesn’t derail and go off in several directions.
Step 7: Bonus advice from an expert! Writing is essential
Automattic’s Founder, Matt Mullenweg, runs arguably the most successful, fully-distributed workforce today. His biggest tip for hiring impactful players in a virtual workforce? Writing well.
In an interview with Business Insider, Mullenweg says that skillful writing is a good sign to him. “Skill in writing is one of the things I look for the most in hiring because I feel that clear writing represents clear thinking…”
He continues by emphasizing the role of communication in virtual teams: “The ability to communicate effectively and clearly in written form is not only super important in a distributed company, but I think reflects well on how they approach life in general.”
You don’t have to learn these skills alone. Take one or all of our online courses and discover expert tips for becoming a world-class virtual manager. Sign up now.
Photo by Amy Hirschi