Technology makes working remotely easy. As long as you have a computer, cell phone and Internet connection, you can provide support to clients from any part of the country.
When you’re working as part of any team, everyone needs to take extra steps to ensure true collaboration occurs. This is especially true for virtual teams that are paid or volunteers. Without a cohesive mindset, chaos can quickly ensue and client support can be negatively impacted.
Here are a few tips to always keep top of mind when working within a virtual team.
Build Virtual Trust. Any successful collaboration you have – in work or your personal life – is built upon trust. The way to build trust is by creating positive mutual work experiences and personal interactions. When you prove to your virtual colleagues that they can count on you to follow-through and meet your commitments – credibility and trust grows.
In a virtual team, members typically have no idea about their colleagues work environment, work ethic or personal life. While you can tell each other about your children or home office situation – you can only demonstrate your work ethic. If you exhibit behavior that betrays the trust of others, or you don’t pull your weight – you won’t build the confidence you need to be successful.
Trust is the glue that bonds teams together while building commitment and engagement.
Communicate Effectively. Virtual teams typically work quickly on projects. Dependent upon the size of the account, many people may have interactions with various members of a client’s company. Some may gain insights that others need to know to help efficiently execute deliverables. Meetings may cancel, and deadlines may shift. Feedback may even occur that impacts the scope of project work.
If something you’ve committed to working on cannot be completed due to technical difficulties – perhaps the webinar you’re covering for social posts isn’t delivering good audio or you’re going on vacation and will be unavailable – you need to tell the other members working on your team. Going dark is akin to walking off the job. Being quiet and expecting others to “read your mind” is not effective – especially when clients are watching for the team to fulfill their obligations and commitments.
To keep everyone in the know and ensure client expectations are met – virtual team members MUST efficiently communicate with each other. Communication can occur via emails, text messages, phone calls, Google+ Communities, etc.
Make sure your communication is heard, and you respond when others share something. Acknowledge receipt of a text or email. Let team members know you’re engaged and care about the collective results of the team’s project work.
Establish & Follow Team Expectations. You need to know you can count on others and they can count on you. Team expectations can be achieved by respectfully agreeing to follow standard ways to operate.
Eliminate Background Noise. If you’re participating in a virtual meeting, mute your phone when you’re not talking. Limit background noise and ensure others can hear pertinent information that is being discussed.
Don’t Dominate Conversations. Allow others to provide input. Pause occasionally so others on the call can interject and provide insights and feedback.
Listen Attentively. Multi-tasking is the norm, but it can be very distracting. Try to stay focused on the conversation so you can follow-through on the tasks assigned to you.
Clarify and Ask Questions. If you aren’t clear on your assignments – ask questions until you understand.
Don’t Go Rogue. It is easy to say yes to your virtual team members and then run off and do your own thing. Doing things your own way can quickly create chaos and eliminates the trust you’ve been building. If you have an idea of a better way to do something discuss it with your peers.
Be Punctual. If you have a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m., show up on time. Yes, delays can happen, but they should not consistently occur. Show respect to the people you’re meeting with by showing up on time.
Be Prepared. Carve out a minute to review the topic of the meeting. Jot down notes and be prepared to share your insights during the call. Don’t scramble to catch up during the session just because you didn't do your homework.
Use Common Sense. Your actions and words mean something. How you follow-up and interact with others reflects your professionalism, integrity, and character. Lean on your common sense if you’re uncertain about how to address a situation or how your actions will be received. Better yet, when in doubt – ask others.
At the end of the day, if you’re part of a paid- or volunteer- virtual team, you need to remain committed to collaborating and communicating with others while solving problems quickly. If you can’t follow-through and meet expectations, working as part of a virtual team may not be the right fit for you. But if this works for you, you’re guaranteed to experience great rewards.