In Blog, Team & Culture

5 Tips for Building An Effective Virtual Team

By Tara Powers, Author of Virtual Teams for Dummies

Building your personal brand is hard work.

If you are working to get your brand launched, you know what I mean. It takes a wide range of skills and abilities, and you can’t do it alone.  It takes a team of support that you must assemble and manage.

The bottom line is that you must get very good at recruiting great people. 

People like social media guru’s, marketing strategists, designers, developers, event planners, administrative professionals, copywriters, and more. Most of the time the professional support your looking for isn’t in your backyard – it’s national, global and virtual. You’ll probably never even meet most of your support team face-to-face, and yet you rely on them, trust them, and empower them to evangelize your message and broaden the reach of your personal brand.

This is why learning how to building an effective virtual team is so important.

Finding, hiring and managing a virtual team can be one of the most exciting challenges that you’ll face. In my own business, I’ve personally and successfully managed a virtual team for more than 10 years.

But, I’ve seen the other side too.

I’ve also worked with companies that have tried to take the same practices for hiring, communication, training, management and technology they were using for co-located teams, and thought the same processes would apply to hiring virtual teams. They experienced disastrous results.

In this new workplace paradigm, there are many changes both companies and individuals need to make to ensure that virtual teams are a success. This is exactly the important information that I cover in detail in my new book Virtual Teams for Dummies.

Here are a few of my top tips for building an effective virtual team:

1. Attracting the best people

In order to attract top notch talent to your virtual team, be sure to communicate your commitment to remote work in your job ads and interviews by thoroughly explaining how you leverage communication channels and technology to keep team connected and engaged. Top talent have options and they need to know how you are going to set them up for success in a virtual environment.

You’ll find plenty of people who want to work remotely. It’s important to remember that not everyone excels in this type of work environment. It’s your job is to seek out the key skills and behaviors that make someone a rock star virtual team member. Specifically, look for people who are self-directed, deadline driven, have a good work from home setup, are trustworthy, excellent communicators and adept at using collaborative technology to engage and build relationships.

2. Create an Effective Hiring Process

I recommend a three-step selection process for virtual workers that includes:

1) Skills – look for proficiency in areas such as technical skills, organizational and planning skills, networking skills – the basic skills someone needs to do the job.

2) Behaviors – often more important than skills because they are so deeply ingrained and habitual. Due to the remote nature of virtual work and the inability to work side-by-side with your team, you need to identify if they can consistently demonstrate core behaviors that align with the work they do and how you want to represent your brand and company to the world. These behaviors include things like how they communicate, resolve conflict, deliver critical feedback, collaborate, innovate, practice cultural sensitivity, demonstrate integrity and build relationships virtually.

3) Cultural fit – an essential factor in your selection criteria to determine the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or appreciate your core beliefs, values and attitudes. Basically, are they a good “fit” for the team.

Bonus Tip: Hiring virtually is a challenge. It’s much harder to get a read on people when you are not in-person, face-to-face. This is one reason why I always recommend conducting virtual interviews using a video conferencing tool like SkypeGoToMeeting or Zoom.

3. Onboarding virtual team members

I can’t stress this enough — onboarding on a virtual team is critical.

It is a delicate time for your new team member and your team, and it’s your job to confirm that everyone has made the right choice. I recommend driving home your brand’s shared values, begin technology training immediately, plan multiple face-to-face meetings with all team members in the first 30 days either in person or via Skype/Zoom.

If you have multiple team members, it’s also smart to partner the new team member with a buddy/mentor to offer additional support and help them quickly feel accepted as an important member of the team.

4. Inspiring your virtual team

Tell your brand story regularly.

Leave no room for misinterpretation or confusion. Be clear about the values, behaviors and messages that define your brand and what you expect from your team in carrying that message forward.

Encourage team members to share how they are bringing your brand to life in their everyday interactions with your key audiences.

One great way to inspire greatness in your team is by sharing wins, success stories, and yes even mistakes and lessons learned, frequently. To be clear, sharing failures can be even more inspirational than wins because it demonstrates vulnerability, builds trust and creates a learning culture on your team.

5. Managing your virtual team

You’ve assembled your rock-star virtual team. Now what?

The real work begins!

Managing your virtual team takes a combination of skills, awareness and commitment which I cover extensively in my book. But one of my top tips is a maniacal focus on communication and engagement. It’s a no brainer for a virtual team, but you need to be creative about engaging your team frequently and consistently. Of course, you need to leverage your collaborative technology to connect with team members daily, but you also need to establish channels for informal communication, like using chat, instant message, videos, memes and emoji’s for fun.

Encourage your team to connect on non-work topics by creating team sharing sites for everything from restaurants and travel tips, to recipes, to movie reviews – anything that encourages engagement on your team!

The bottom line is that your virtual team is a direct extension of your personal brand so it’s important to hire smart, manage well, and train them right.

To discover many more best practices for assembling and leading a virtual team, check out my new book Virtual Teams for Dummies. It’s a great resource to get you on the right track to building a rock star virtual team in no time!

 

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