Virtual teams need to put forth extra effort for effective collaboration. This list helps you cover all your bases.
When you’re working with teammates on a project, you’ve likely got common understanding about how you’ll work together.
Group collaboration can produce wonderful solutions to challenges and problem.
But for the most effective collaboration, your team needs to follow certain behaviors and guidelines.
But what if your team is remote?
You need to be even more intentional in your approach when your teammates are working in different locations.
How do you ensure good working relationships and getting the most valuable collaboration from virtual teams?
When you’re bringing a group of people together to reach a shared goal, you need to cultivate effective practices and behaviors.
Remote work can be tricky for teams. Especially if it’s a new way of working for team members.
But with careful planning and the right behaviors, the collaborative process will be just as successful with your virtual team.
Make sure the following elements are in place, and you’ll all be producing fantastic results together, no matter where you’re working from.
Trust is one of the most foundational elements of effective collaboration. Trust fosters more successful collaboration through openness and willingness to experiment to come up with new ideas and move projects forward.
Trust takes time to build, but it’s a critical element for productive working relationships.
Trust is based on empathy and understanding.
If your team members already know one another, you’ve got a great head start. If not, then find ways to get to know one another better. Seeing the human side of people builds empathy. Finding common interests and backgrounds can help team members relate to one another even better
Use team icebreakers for remote teams can be useful.
Also, treat one another with respect and act with integrity and honesty.
Use great listening skills for better communication – even when you’re not in the room together.
Trust is foundational to great collaboration. And trust is based on empathy. If team members don’t know one another well, find ways to foster better relationships. Seeing the human side of people fosters empathy, trust, and more collaborative and innovative teams.
Related: 7 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Active Listening Skills for Better Communication
Related: 15 Easy Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings
Teams must understand the goals of their work. This alignment ensures everyone is moving toward the same target for the most effective collaboration.
Having a clear purpose ensures that team members are focused on the right thing. And for increased productivity, having measurable goals can be even better.
For group collaboration, you may need different people working in different roles.
Identify the people who are best suited for each role to help you reach your goals.
Team members come with different strengths in different areas. Using the right people in the right way can help your team be more successful.
Consider each team member’s individual expertise and skills when considering what roles they’ll play on a project. When people leverage their strengths they’re better able to work more effectively.
You may have a team member who’s an excellent communicator, or very artistic. Put those skills to use where they’re most valuable. You may have a team member who wants to take on a new challenge. This may be a chance for them to stretch and grow.
Also, team members need to understand what their individual responsibilities are. People are more productive and accountable when they know what they’re supposed to be doing.
If your team is doing remote work, communication can be more challenging. Make the effort to ensure everyone is clear on their roles.
4. Team Size
Effective collaboration can be a challenge if your team is large. If you have a large project and a large team, establish sub-teams with different focus areas.
You may need to establish a lead or point person for each sub-team. Again, make sure that people know their roles and goals.
5. The Right People
Even if your team is remote, having the right people with the right skills promotes excellent virtual teamwork.
Find people who have expertise and experience needed for your project. As shared in the roles section above, you want to have people working where their skillsets and expertise are most valuable.
Don’t be afraid to reach outside of your group to access skillsets if needed. You can temporarily access resources who can contribute valuable skills to your team.
6. Clear Expectations
Team members and those working together virtually need to understand what’s expected of them.
This relates to the project they’re working on, their role in it, due dates, scope, etc.
Also make sure the team knows how they’ll communicate and any other guidelines that will help the team be productive and work effectively.
Letting your team know what’s expected helps everyone stay on track and on target.
Stay in communication with team members. Share information, but also be intentional with your communication.
Consider the following elements of your communications:
- Content: what is it that you need to share with your team? Make sure the information or message is clear and concise.
- Channel: Make sure that the message is sent via the right channel. If the message needs to go to many people at the same time, an email may a good way to communicate. If more back and forth, real time, or conversational, a group chat could be perfect.
- Timing or frequency: make sure team members get updates or information when needed.
- Tone: If you’re communicating in writing, be intentional about your words and the tone of your messages. Negative messages may come across harsher in writing, and it’s easy to do so without thinking about how it may come across.
Don’t go for long periods of time without touching base with team members. For the most effective collaboration, team members need to stay informed of what one another are working on and progress.
Frequent communications, such as a daily touchpoint, can keep everyone in synch and on the same page. If anything has changed from the previous day and plans need to change, teams can adjust more quickly.
Remote work presents the challenge of not being able to drop by someone’s desk for an update. You need to be more intentional about making the effort to stay in touch.
And as a team member, if you don’t understand a communication or assignment, proactively seek more information.
If you’re waiting on information from someone or haven’t gotten a response on an email in a while, reach out to validate that they received your message – especially if it’s time sensitive.
Communication is always important. But it needs special consideration when you and your team members are working in different locations.
8. Access to Information
For effective collaboration and productive virtual teamwork, team members need to have access to information for effective collaboration.
Having access to the right information ensures everyone is able to work productively and give input where and when needed.
Make it easy for people to find what they need and ensure team members have the ability to access that information.
Effective collaboration can only happen when team members have access to the information they need. Ensure remote workers know where to find information, and they’re able to access it.
To maintain trust, it’s important to follow through with commitments. Team members must all agree to be accountable for their actions and responsibilities.
Be clear about your intentions so everyone has the same understanding of what you’re committing to. And then honor your commitments.
Frustration can shut down creativity and productivity. If your technology fails, find ways to adjust and adapt, and roll with the situation as much as possible.
Be flexible when things don’t go as planned. A positive attitude helps a lot in these situations.
11. Curiosity / Open-Mindedness
Collaboration works best when team members are open to new ideas and suggestions.
Even if all ideas aren’t great, the best ideas come when many ideas are generated. This only happens in supportive and safe environments.
Create a culture of open-mindedness and support.
Additionally, curiosity and open-mindedness are critical for good communication, which creates a healthier and more collaborative environment.
Brainstorming and challenging standard beliefs can lead to new and innovative solutions. But these will only happen if people feel safe presenting new ideas. For the most productive and innovative collaboration, cultivate a team culture that supports this.
Related: 10 Surprising Ways Conflict Is Good for Your Team
For the most productive and innovative collaboration, cultivate a team culture that supports challenging standard beliefs.
12. The Right Tools
The right tools are critical for supporting collaboration for remote teams.
- Phone calls, instant messaging allow people to talk easily and in real time.
- Conference calling is a standard tool used by teams today. Many teams opt for voice only, but sometimes it helps to see one another face-to-face, even if it’s online. Seeing facial expressions and visual cues helps the team bond more, if they’ve not had the chance to meet in real life.
- Also, if teams need to share visuals, conference calls allow this capability, too.
- Team rooms and discussion forums allow teams to collaborate and share information with the group, enabling comments and discussions for all team members to see.
13. Ability to Iterate
If your team is new to remote work, set expectations, and then adjust as needed. Figure out what works for you. And for things that aren’t working well, find ways to improve.
Set aside time for a short meeting with your team to discuss what’s working well and what can be improved.
14. Celebrate Success
Team members need to feel like their work is important and that they’re able to make a difference. Celebrating successes – even small ones – can motivate teams to continue to do great work.
Everyone wants to feel like they matter and that their work matters. Make sure to do this even if your team is scattered.
Everyone wants to feel like their work matters. Find ways to celebrate successes even if your team is virtual. You’ll foster team bonding, shared experiences, and morale for more effective collaboration and teamwork.
Effective collaboration requires that teams put forth effort for the best results.
Virtual collaboration requires an even more intentional approach. Having the right culture, behaviors, and tools will help foster virtual teamwork that’s productive, engaging, and a pleasure for all.