10 Ways to Lead a Virtual Team

By Karen A. Frenkel  |  Posted 07-04-2014 Email Print this article Print

A new Unify study finds that highly successful virtual teams engage more often on a personal level, with team members speaking their minds and contributing openly regardless of their location. The report says team member location is not a significant factor for success, but conversing is. "Highly successful teams engage more often on a personal level; [members] speak their minds and contribute freely regardless of their location; are more likely to be in meetings ripe with engaging dialogue, rather than a one-way monologue that may or may not be relevant to all team members," according to the report. Conducted earlier this year by Unify (formerly Seimens Enterprise Communications), the report's sample size was 326 executives in a variety of industries, with 43 percent of them working in technology. For a copy of the report, click here.

  • Stay Connected

    As the proportion of remote team members increases and locations become dispersed, successful virtual teams protect the conditions that lead to candid dialogue. 71% of respondents on successful teams engage daily or weekly with non-business conversations, and 86% reach out to colleagues in other locations just to keep in touch.
    Stay Connected
  • Encourage Collaboration

    77% of unsuccessful teams say a quarter of their meetings are monologues. In contrast, only 6% of successful teams have a similar amount of limited monologues.
    Encourage Collaboration
  • Make the Team Feel Like a Team

    Successful teams don't let distance get in their way. 68% have more than half of their members in different locations and 85% of successful teams have 25% remote members.
    Make the Team Feel Like a Team
  • Encourage Team Leaders to Set Examples

    The sooner a team starts to act like a virtual team, the greater the chances for success. The following seven slides contain tips for how best to interact with remote teams.
    Encourage Team Leaders to Set Examples
  • Initiate Quick Personal Conversations

    Initiate a phone call by showing interest in your employees. Let them know it's nice to cross paths again. You can ask, for example, "How was your trip?" Get them to say more than "Hi."
    Initiate Quick Personal Conversations
  • Conducting Conference Calls

    Keep conference call groups small to support dialogue. Handle one-to-one items off-line. Call on remote members by their names.
    Conducting Conference Calls
  • Office-Based and Remote Workers Should Engage

    Encourage the office-based contingent of the team to engage with remote workers by assigning tasks they can collaborate on and share responsibility for the outcome.
    Office-Based and Remote Workers Should Engage
  • Don't Postpone Discussions

    It's best to not hold off on discussions until a conference call can be scheduled. The most successful teams do only 27% of their collaboration in scheduled meetings. Encourage team members to call and exchange ideas and information as needed.
    Don't Postpone Discussions
  • How to Respond to Anxious E-mails

    When you receive a virtual cry of angst, call the writer. That can dramatically change the team member's day and his or her relationship to the team. Using IM can also help virtual team members feel less isolated.
    How to Respond to Anxious E-mails
  • Differentiate Between a Discussion and a Briefing

    If you must deliver lots of information to many people, consider writing or recording the briefing information. Let the team to absorb the briefing on its own time. Record a narration for your PowerPoint presentation. Record the slides and talk track in your online conferencing tool. Write a bulleted brief. Use Brainshark or selects to record screens and narration. Then schedule a shorter call for discussion.
    Differentiate Between a Discussion and a Briefing
  • Schedule Virtual Coffee Breaks

    If your team members were in an office, they would chat first thing in the morning, over lunch, at the water cooler, etc. That's not a waste of time. The rules are no different for virtual teams. Schedule 15 minutes of agenda-less time just to talk about the business.
    Schedule Virtual Coffee Breaks
Karen A. Frenkel writes about technology and innovation and lives in New York City.


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