Having tried and tested principles to guide you through the mire of leading virtual teams- technical and non-technical alike, the kind of teams that are used to operating within geographical, functional or individual silos, who don’t communicate with each other, I have devised the 10 top tips that can make a difference in how teams relate to eachother, which is as important as technical savvy if you want to achieve results.
Establish team identity – be it through the project they are working on or the IT organization they are member of – through a clear and simple mission statement.
Companies often think that the IT teams are so absorbed by the technical world, that they have no interest in what they’re doing it for, when actually they often appreciate being guided. This can instill a sense of purpose, which, when incorporated into identity and mission can be highly motivational.
2. Common goals:
Establish clear and measurable goals, milestones etc. for the team as a whole and the individuals within the team.
3. Effective organization:
Define a clear organization, roles & responsibilities that is allows for the individuals to excel and get the best out of themselves, as a team and as individuals.
Make team members genuinely feel empowered, focus on the WHAT not the HOW. I don’t mean an away day with lots of cheering and baseball caps, although I have nothing against joy and tasteful head wear. This is about allowing your people to follow through on their ideas and manage projects/tasks the way they see fit – within reason and giving a suitable level of guidance, as required.
5. Effective Communications culture:
Establish clear and pragmatic team communications plan (status calls/meetings, etc.), foster a culture where team members at all levels openly raise opinions and ideas, and challenge others even if they are more senior. Create a culture of talking rather than writing and walk the talk!
6. Be WITH the team:
Lead from the front – be integral part of the team, be with them in the trenches, especially in challenging times. Be approachable beyond the cliché. Make sure you spend sufficient time with ALL team members, not only those in the center (HQ).
Continuously and publicly recognize achievements, of the team as a whole and individuals within the team, making sure senior management and stakeholders are informed in also in the presence of the team (be it in writing, phone or meeting).
Define and implement a fair incentive plan in line with project/team goals. This is not necessarily about a big fat bonus, (cue ‘sigh of relief’). There are many ways to incentivize: a social occasion, vouchers, free membership to an online or offline portal or publication, days off in-lieu etc.
Regularly review team and individual performance and do NOT hesitate to make necessary changes when required, even if those are not popular in some quarters.
Make sure the fun bit is not forgotten, find the way for the team to have fun too alongside the day to day job!