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5 Steps to great virtual team communication

July 6, 2011

Increasingly, teams don’t sit in the same office and even those that do probably rely to a large extent on electronic communication.

No 3. Take the time to know the real person rather than their digital alias.

So in a ‘connected world’ how can we ensure that team members truly connect, collaborate and build trust?  Here are 5 steps to great virtual team communication:

  1. Out of sight out of mind . This phrase is more true than ever before, so keep colleagues in sight with photographs and web cams. Be sure to change the pictures regularly and use the web cams not just for formal meetings but for informal chats. Some teams even have lunch together when they are spread across the country.
  2. See strengths not differences. It’s increasingly common for teams to be made up of different nationalities and often this can lead to stereotypical behaviour – Brits will be more reserved and non-committal, Americans will be more enthusiastic and Germans might take the role of completer finisher. In any team it’s important that individuals do play different roles but these roles should be determined by strengths and expertise not cultural background. An excellent questionnaire-based tool that identifies an individual’s actual strengths and plots them alongside team mates is the Strength Deployment Inventory.
  3. Build deeper relationships. With old school friends the trust remains even when we don’t see each other, so it’s imperative to build trust within virtual teams. Someone once said that you only really get to know someone when you’ve wasted time together. So, create times to get to know each other beyond professional roles, you can do this by travelling with colleagues, eating meals together or simply asking questions such as ‘Tell me about your family/school life/hobby?’
  4. Keep the main thing the main thing. A team is simply a group of people working towards a common goal or shared purpose but very often this ‘main thing’ gets overshadowed by less important things like office politics, demanding clients or sheer volume of work. Spend time reminding the team of their ‘main thing’ and consider dropping some of the baggage that gets in the way.
  5. Meet up and have fun. Even teams spread across different countries need to get together from time to time. When you do, don’t just sit in a stuffy meeting room, instead do something unrelated to work like making wooden toys for children in hospital, cook a meal for each other or explore the city you are visiting. We’ve always said that teams that play together work together and this is especially important for remote teams who miss out on office banter and workplace games.
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