Virtual Teams provide their own unique challenges and often require alternative ways to encourage teamwork and trust.
1: Regular communication is vital to build rapport in the team. Conference calls are the standard medium to use for teams located in a variety of locations. The more frequent the calls are the shorter each session needs to be. Daily calls of 30 minutes can work well with teams of 5 or less people.
2: Arrange regular one to one sessions with each team member. But stick to your agreement. These one to one sessions are vital and any hint of them being your first choice to postpone when something else comes up will dramatically damage trust with the team member.
3: Maintain a balance during the regular team calls. Some people like to talk a lot, others prefer to listen. It would be unreasonable to expect these people to completely change their normal level of interaction, but by toning down the overly active participants and encouraging input from the quite ones you will develop a much more rounded group.
4: Rotate who speaks first on your team call. Make a note of the order in which people join the call. They can be rewarded for joining the call early by allowing them to raise any points first.
5: A problem shared is a problem halved. Virtual teams often have similar issues with their day to day job, by raising these on the call it allows them to verbalise what the problems are, making it easier to see what a possible solution might be. This is even more powerful when dealing with teams from different cultural backgrounds. Often solutions that may appear obvious to a team in one continent simply would not occur to a team in another.
6: Have a virtual coffee break. Many office workers comment on how problems are often solved at the coffee machine whilst chatting to colleagues. Once or twice a week, break the monotony of a fixed routine and allow the conversation to go “off topic”. During these breaks the team will get to know each other and will connect better.
7: Buddy up. By arranging for team members to focus their attention on a specific person to go to for support, they begin to learn what each other’s skills are and some areas where their buddy may need a helping hand. There is nothing more rewarding, during a team call, than to hear one colleague thank another for their help resolving an issue.