Tips to Working with Virtual Teams

"What has to change in order to effectively lead virtual teams?"

As organizations are increasingly decentralizing, and social networks have a greater organizational presence, how has that impacted leadership?

The dynamics of virtual teams are very different than in-person teams. The connection, the sense of relationship and collaboration is not as present. Staff can't wander into your office to ask a question or even feel that personal presence when seeing their leader or manager walk through the halls of the building. It harder to feel that sense of team when you might be spread all over the city, country or globe. So leaders have to take notice. Those entering the workforce have to notice as well as their working relationships will be different than in the past.

I've been working on material for guest lectures and keynotes. Organizations are looking for direction on how to lead in an increasingly virtual world. With the advent of social media and teams connected by technology, relationships have to be forged, however in a new way. If you can't create that connection and strong, cohesive team, then you won't produce. And you know what that means.

So here are some tips to point you in a direction:

  1. Make it personal. Start the conversation off with a question that invites people to share who they are, not only what they do. I call them tidbits.
  2. Find out something they have in common. Half the fun is finding out what that may be (and make take place over numerous calls.
  3. Bring video in if at all possible. Seeing everyone's faces makes it more personal (and keeps their attention on the virtual meetings).
  4. Follow-up the calls with a short email. Stay in touch so the staff doesn't feel isolated and ignored.
  5. Change the timing of the meetings to honor all time zones.
Remember you're working with people through technology, not the other way around.


Donna Karlin, CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder of 'A Better Perspective' has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching with global senior organizational leaders.

Donna is an author, speaker and lectures internationally. Her work has been written up in Fast Company Magazine, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The Boston Globe,...

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