Would it surprise you if I told you there’s no art to mastering a virtual team?
Because there’s not.
If you’re going to master and successfully run a virtual team, it’s not about art, it’s all about science. It’s about defining roles, systems, organizations and being deliberate. Most of all, it’s about a well-oiled machine.
How do I know? Because I’ve been part of a virtual team for years—long before they became a trend. I’ve worked with people all around the world. Through this experience, I have come to understand the science behind virtual teams. And, I know firsthand what a high producing, successful virtual team can do.
In my opinion, there are five standards and three tools that every successful virtual team should employ—without exception. Let me illustrate with examples from a hobby of mine: football.
(No, I don’t actually PLAY football aside the minor powder puff and flag football games, but I LOVE watching a good game and I prefer college to the NFL.)
Part of the reason football is so intriguing to me is the size and depth of the team and how it runs like a well-oiled machine. Think about it. There’s a long list of positions, a number of players for each position, and a coach for each group of players. Plus, there’s a coach for both sides of the ball and special teams as well as a head coach.
The coaching staff for football is larger than any other sport, yet they all come together under one main goal and one solitary playbook. Each individual coach prepares their players and helps them be part of the team—playing under one playbook to pummel the competition. It’s just like each of us should be doing to successfully manage and build our virtual teams. After all, isn’t it our goal to unite and pummel the competition? (Well maybe not pummel, but at least knock them off the grid.)
The Five Standards
1. Each staff member has a specific role. To have a successful virtual team, every team member’s role must be clearly defined. Just like a tight ends’ coach doesn’t train defensive ends or linebackers, there should be boundaries for each member of the virtual team. Depending on the size of your team, these boundaries may overlap. The key: each member of the team must know the specific role they are to play.
2. Each staff member has specific training and strengths that fit their role. A successful team can only be as good as their training and the skills they possess and develop. If an offensive coordinator decides to run the defense, the skills and training are a mismatch. And, the results aren’t likely to be pretty or productive, let alone successful. Ensuring each member of your virtual team is well paired with the role they play by way of their specific training, talents and potential is essential. When team members are doing work that caters to their strengths, the flow, functioning, and usage of resources promotes efficiency and effective team results.
3. Everyone must know the playbook. You must have unified goals when you work as a virtual team. Everyone needs to know the company playbook. They need to know the mission and how it’s going to be accomplished together. Communication is a vital part of the playbook, too, so there’s no misinterpretation. Heaven forbid the quarterback calls a run play in the huddle but the offense sets up for a pass.
4. Team members are accountable to each other. Just like each of the staff and coaches in a football league are accountable for off the field training and preparation, a virtual team must have accountability, too. . This means, knowing your role, maintaining responsibility, and reporting back to keep everyone on track.
5. The work is measured, corrected and applauded: For football, it’s all in the stats. They provide each coach and player a good idea of where they are, what they did right, and what they did wrong. There should be ‘stats’ for virtual teams, too. We should be taking notes on ways we can improve, systems and processes that can be tweaked, and most importantly the successes that we share together.
While we may not pace the sidelines or sit up in the booth to call a game, hopefully, we aren’t walking around with our playbooks rolled up in our back pockets either. There are many essential tools we need in our playbooks to keep us on our ‘A game.’ Check out part II for details on the essential tools for a successful virtual team.
Our guest blogger Bonnie Andrews is a marketing maniac. She provides marketing DIY expertise for business owners in local and online establishments. Her colleagues tout her as the gal who “gets stuff done and has a million great ideas.” She mainstreams marketing plans and makes things happen for businesses in start-up mode to multi-million dollar mavens. Bonnie’s skills and experience with virtual teams, customer service and rock solid marketing principles have shaped her ability to offer products and services that flourish solely by word of mouth. She’s been in the industry for more than seven years and has enjoyed every minute of it. Follow her at her in her newest adventure at MaxThatMarketing.com or on Twitter: @weMAXthat