Do you work as  part of a virtual team? Do you find it a challenge to keep your team motivated, engaged and focused? If so,  you might be interested to read some tips gathered from 40 experienced project professionals.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure to facilitate a workshop about virtual teams at the annual PMI Fair (Project Management  Institute)   in Belgium. The findings were both informative and enlightening.

But firstly, did you ever count the  years you have been working in a virtual team? Chances are it’s less  than 10. So perhaps it’s  comforting to consider that we are only attending primary school when it comes to experiencing virtual teams. This means, we can still learn a lot.

We all know what a great team should have: a shared objective, respect, fun, effective communication, consistent results, etc. What we tend to forget is that those aspects are also needed to create a great virtual team. So, when I asked the participants to list the challenges they regularly face when working in virtual teams , I was not surprised that they came up with things like misalignment, misunderstandings, lack of small talk, not knowing each other, technical communication problems etc. …

I believe we can summarize the needs of a great virtual team in one question: WHY are we in this TOGETHER? The answer clarifies our real purpose  and nurtures the feeling of ‘togetherness’  from both the team and the individual team member perspective.  In addition, the  clarity the answer brings can help build trust, which is an essential building block for a great team.

When I asked the participants to share their golden tips for working in virtual teams, they came up with the following:

  • clarify the purpose of the team,
  • connect with people on a personal level,
  • give people the floor to talk about themselves,
  • prepare the meetings and share documents upfront,
  • make sure to summarize the to do’s after the meeting,…

Again, this is not very different from what you do to create a great (non virtual) team. When in doubt, think about what is needed for any great team and bring the missing ingredient(s) to the table. A personalised approach, calling people by their name, mentioning the talents or the work done by a particular person, giving space for ‘coffee corner talks’, showing how the virtual work environment looks like, using all the features of the technology (screen sharing, voting,…), … A lot of easy things can be done to connect so that everyone wants to be part of your great virtual team!

Take care,

Katherina