How To Get the Best Out Of Your Virtual Team

How To Get The Best Out Of Your Virtual Team!

I was recently interviewed by the lovely Christine Canters, on how to lead your virtual team successfully.  Here are my responses to her questions.

What are the differences between virtual and face to face team leading?

The main difference is you’ve got no buffer zone. When you work with a face to face team you’ve got the added benefit of observation. You can see what they’re doing, hear tone of voice to customers and between each other. You’re able to observe body language throughout the day that gives you information about how they’re going, what their attitude is like, whether they’re feeling confident or ‘are in their own head’, all of which gives you information that you can address and take action.
With a face to face team you can get away with not having your systems and processes set up as you’re having incidental conversations through out the day. With an online team that doesn’t happen as easily.

How do I build a strong virtual team ?

Like any team, a strong team is built with strong foundations. Some of these things, we may miss with a face to face team in the beginning, yet it’s still possible to have a team, albeit, less productive, without them.  With any team a strong team starts with being very clear on the purpose of the business. Knowing the Visions and goals of the team and communicating them consistently.

How do I make sure my team stays motivated and engaged despite the distance?

There are 3 keys to ensuring they remain motivated.
  1. Talking about the purpose and vision – helping them understand the importance of the work they do – what difference they are making in the lives of your customers – reminding them of this at least weekly.
  1. Measure their performance – have very clear and easy to measure kpi’s so you can identify when they’re doing well – to celebrate, and when they’re struggling – to help them improve.
  1. Understanding that there are 6 core needs that every human being has no matter race, nationality, age or sex gives you the power to meet these needs whether face to face or virtual. All my suggested systems and templates go along way to help you meet each of these needs.
Another way to keep them motivated is to look at how you pay them.  If you pay on an hourly basis there’s no real urgency for them to complete the work in minimal time, in fact it has the opposite effect, the longer they work on it the more they get paid.
Have a look at the work they are assigned. Is there a way to pay them per ‘completion of each task or project’ or a weekly amount with clearly stipulated rates for completion of all the tasks you’ve assigned them.
In order to do this effectively you absolutely must create a job description for each virtual team member.

What team building activities exist on a virtual level? Any worth trying out?

There is a great activity called the “River of life activity”  “What other rivers or different streams helped you get to this point in your life?”.  Embrace the entire metaphor incorporating waterfalls, rocks, twists and turns, rapids, ponds what’s on the bank of the river. What was present and what did you need to work through each challenge or achievement.  Give the team 10-15 min to complete their image, and then have them share it with the rest of the team – Maximum 10 minutes sharing time per person to keep interest level high.
Objective:  To enable the team to get to know each other, gain more of an understanding about each person and find some common ground to build their relationship on.
Tools:  Coloured pens/crayons – A3 piece of paper and creativity

How can I use the power of non verbal communication while working remotely?

Your communication with the team is paramount.  Setting up your systems to ensure clarity of understanding is crucial when it comes to non verbal communication.   Write a Job Description for each role, ensure you have a Staff Handbook, create a Weekly Business Meeting template and utilise them in the business consistently.
Hold A Weekly Business Meeting;
The best way though, is to communicate with them through video conferencing. Here you can hear tone of voice and observe body language, even if it’s just for an hour a week. It creates connection and makes them feel a part of a team.
Set a time each week  to run a video conference meeting and before you employ them, ensure that they can agree to meet at that time.   Their level of commitment will never be as high as it is when they still ‘want’ the job.
Create a Business Meeting Template that covers all of the business goals which the team is involved in.  This is where you derive their kpi’s from.  In the meeting, discuss strategies currently utilised to achieve each business goal and set mini goals (based on their kpi’s) for the week for each team member.  Each week pull up last weeks minutes and review.  How did your team perform according to the goals set? What worked/What didn’t how can they improve. Celebrate what worked and help them with what didn’t in the meeting (if it’s an extended help, you may need to make a time with them one on one to help them completely)
Ask them to have their numbers prepared before the meeting so it’s just a matter of documenting and discussing.  Make this a part of their Job Description.
The benefit of this WBM template is that you place your vision statement and purpose at the top of  the page so at the beginning of the meeting you can ask them something like;
“How did you move us towards our vision this week?” Or
“What happened that reminded you of why we do what we do is so important”
Other Non Verbal Communication
Diarise a number of times during the week to check in with them via email. Follow up with a project that’s due or just ask them how they’re doing.  They are a person too and want to know they are valued and appreciated

How can I establish myself as a leader to a virtual team and enable trust and confidence within the team?

By doing all of the above plus;
Before you employ them create a Virtual Staff Handbook – sounds fancy but all it is, is a list of your expectations to be successful in your business.  Essentially, think about everything that would piss you off if they didn’t do it.  Include things like attitude and communication.
Then, hold them accountable to those expectations – if they haven’t done something that was agreed upon at the beginning of their employment, address it with them. Every. Single. Time
Every time they don’t meet these expectations address it with them.  Think of your business as a high expectation high support environment. Given that you offer them support/training and development as they need it, you are well within your rights to have high expectations.
I have a script that I can email that gives you the approach to use.  Essentially, the first time you have to hold them accountable, you start with a ‘coaching’ approach, asking them questions to see where the misunderstanding is.  With each offence  of the same expectation you increase the intensity of the conversation. The intention is to help them realise and correct.  You don’t have to be heavy handed in the first conversation.  It’s not about conflict, it’s about helping them get back on track.
One last point on accountability, don’t deliver bad news in an email. If you have to hold them accountable get on a zoom call and have a face to face chat.

When working in English remotely with people from different countries and continents do I need to adopt specific ways of communicating with people from other countries and cultures ?

It’s important to understand what’s important to the individual.  What days of the year are important for them to be with their family.  What do they need in terms of their religion and life commitments?  Ensure you understand these at the beginning of your working relationship and then diversify your team so you have a team able to help you when you need, whilst enabling them to participate in their cultural/religious activities.
Language can be a barrier. If you think about the way we communicate – 55% is body language, 38% is tone and only 7% is words.  So with a virtual team majority of your communication is going to be words. If you then have to contend with a language barrier that makes it even harder.
Use google translate to translate all of your documents. Have it read by someone who speaks both languages to ensure the translation has worked.
To find out what else you can do with your virtual or face to face team to ensure a long term productive relationship, click here and we can create your tailored plan!
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