Creating an open and honest environment in the team is a key factor to keeping team members happy and productive. In a virtual team, it is just as important to remain open with your team members and keep them in the immediate loop of information. Since they are not always in a central location, it is essential to keep them updated on current happenings in the company and in their department. When the team members feel included, they learn to trust you and will look to you when they have questions.
Trust Your Team and They Will Trust You
Trust is a key component in any relationship, personal or professional. Virtual teams can have additional problems with trust when they are not always in each other’s company. They can be unsure about what is being said or if they are doing as well as they should. As a team leader, it is important to show your trust in your team first. Show them that you trust them to complete their work and trust them with crucial information, such as potential job reassignments or even closures. When the team feels as though you trust them, they can, in turn, learn to trust you. They will instill their trust in you and confide in you when they have concerns or are worried. This trust not only builds a stronger relationship among the team members and team leader, but also the entire virtual team.
Beware of “Us vs. Them” Territorial Issues
Often times when management tries to solely run a team without regards to its members, the employees can begin to have that “Us against Them” mentality. They begin to believe that management is only looking out for management or does not value the opinion of the team members. This can cause further resentment from the team and can affect the whole team’s productivity. Remind your team that you are on their side and that you realize that the team works together to accomplish the same goal. Let them know that they are included in many of the decisions made (although not ALL of them), and that their presence on the team is valued. When a team member feels as though they are part of the working machine, they are less likely to feel like an opposing force.
Share Best Practices
A form of ‘best practice’ is loosely defined as a practice that has proved productive in the past and has results behind it to back it up. Sharing best practices with your virtual team can be a great move when faced with some of the same situations. Common forms of sharing these practices include sending them through email or forming some kind of instruction sheet. Some team members may need to be counseled in person or shown how to follow a process step by step. Sharing these practices shows trust among the team and trust that they can continue the chain of success.
- Processes/procedures that have worked before
- Can be shared a number of ways, including email, videos or personal instruction
- Consult with the team regarding alterations/variations if needed
Follow up with the team to ensure comprehension.