Global Leadership Blog

Preventing Virtual Team Implosion

You brought ten bright people together to calibrate milestones. The team was dispersed internationally and throughout the course of the project you met by teleconference… The deliverable was a mess. Clearly, something fell through the cracks.

With virtual teams, you can’t just put members together and expect productivity. Let me tell you, that just won’t happen.

You are going to have get in each team member’s face, literally and figuratively.

How Was Information Delivered?

What technology solution did you use? If words and images are garbled, inconsistent, or simply not there, your project has taken a step backwards.

Here are a few products that are commonly used by virtual teams:

Bluejeans This cloud-based video collaboration tool appeals to IT departments because it frees up server space. Most importantly for you as a virtual team leader, it helps your team people see and hear each other and easily share graphics.

Webex This is one of the best known and oldest collaboration tools. Webex recently redesigned its User Interface to be more streamlined and easy to navigate during videoconferencing. I have found the Webex mobile apps to be more versatile than some of the newer products on the market.

I am especially intrigued by Immersive Telepresence, which utilizes sophisticated technology and, occasionally, robotics to make the videoconference experience mimic the “in person” conference experience.

Other virtual teams I have worked with have used Citrix Go To Meeting and Google Hangouts.

Look Me In The Eyes!

You may have all the bells and whistles your IT budget can buy, but making the most out of your virtual team depends on so much more than the technology. Your team members need to:

Get buy in. Who among us hasn’t heard “this new system is going to make our lives easier”? Sometimes the only person truly invested is the one who made the decision to buy it. As with any change, people are more likely to be positive about learning new systems if they are given a role in choosing or implementing it.

Communicate intentionally. Some keys to keeping your virtual team on track are the habits that help communication flow easily, such as introducing yourself before speaking, and deliberately building in strategic silences. (Strategic silences are important because members can’t easily catch the “I am done now it’s your turn” cues that are typical of in-person conversations.)

Develop discipline. As with an in-person meeting, assign roles such as “moderator” and “timekeeper” to structure the meeting. With one person concentrating on helping everyone use their time effectively, other members can focus on the business at hand.

And then there’s the devil of the virtual team world: Multitasking. Establish rules about multitasking at the outset and enforce them.

From choosing the technology to using the technology appropriately, a lot of preparation goes into virtual team management. Don’t short-change your employees by skipping steps.

Your ten people are logging in. Are you prepared?

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication.
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