You hopefully have experienced times where a group was really clicking and operating on all cylinders It’s amazing the amount of progress that can be made.
However, you’ve likely also experienced times when working together seemed hard and even counter-productive to getting any results. So is often the case when you are leading a virtual team. When teams work from various locations, you lose the benefit of being “locked” in a room, working side-by-side, playing off of each other’s enthusiasm and excitement.
Communication via email and instant messaging is not nearly as productive as it is when you are face-to-face. And that feeling of teamwork and camaraderie is often lost across distances.
However, you can improve collaboration among your virtual employees if you follow this advice:
- Unite behind a common purpose. Teams too often make the mistake of diving into a project or task without fully understanding why the work is being done or what the perfect end result would be. Without a clear and common purpose, your collaboration efforts will fail.
- Develop concrete goals. The common purpose unites the group and the goals provide focus. If you want the maximum results from any group, set concrete goals and hold everyone accountable for reaching them.
- Communicate freely. Effective collaboration requires open and honest communication about ideas, experiences and opinions. Create opportunities for employees to communicate regularly as a group, using video conferencing and the latest collaboration tools.
- Foster open-mindedness. You bring people together because the sum is greater than the contribution of each individual. When people feel comfortable about sharing their ideas, and worry less about whose idea gets implemented, you receive better ideas. Offer everyone a chance to contribute, and treat every idea as if it is workable. People in the office are often quick to dismiss a virtual teammate. Don’t let that happen.
- Hold everyone accountable. Someone may be the team leader, and that is fine. But greater collaboration will come when everyone feels responsible and when anyone is comfortable and “allowed” to take a leadership role. The most collaborative groups have a leader, but are filled with people ready to do what it takes to achieve results. That is especially important on virtual teams when the “true” leader can’t always monitor remote employees’ progress.
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