5 Best Practices for Global Virtual Team Success
The workplace we once knew is changing. Due to the influence of globalization and the connectedness of the internet age, organizations are finding success when they build efficiencies and greater knowledge through global virtual teams.
Lisa Kieffer, Aperian Global’s Director of Consulting (North America), comments that “a key frustration that global team leaders face is the difficulty of attempting to meet fast-paced performance goals when it may not be possible to collaborate face-to-face… or even meet in the same time zone.”
In order to overcome these virtual team challenges, Aperian Global has identified five virtual team best practices:
Plan for a Strong Foundation – The most critical of “best practices” for any virtual team is to create a strong foundation from which a team can operate. The team leader should start by establishing a shared sense of purpose that all team members feel committed to. This helps overcome the virtual distance that will often hold team members back from collaborating effectively. The team should establish a clear charter which outlines team member goals, roles & responsibilities, team processes (e.g. meeting schedules), and expectations around team communications. It is critical to have consistent meeting times and meeting processes, such as sending an agenda ahead of time, so that virtual team members are aware of how to contribute and where to look for information if they are unable to attend. There should also be a consistent system for managing virtual project teams, including transparent leadership, so all team members know where they can turn if they need support.
Leverage Differences – Understand the different work styles that may be present on your team. By understanding the advantages of different approaches to work, global virtual teams can leverage diverse styles and create synergistic solutions.
The GlobeSmart ProfileSM is an integral part of many of our teaming & collaboration learning programs. After taking a brief survey, you can then see where you fall on 5 dimensions of culture, and then compare yourself with other countries, colleagues & teams. Let’s say, for example, I’m working on a project team with individuals from the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Japan. My team members in the United Kingdom may have a higher tolerance for risk in decision-making, so they should be encouraged to invite individuals who have a lower tolerance for risk (i.e. teammates in Japan) to share their perspective, to see if the team should consider other information before making a decision. This example is comparing average profiles of countries, but when possible, it’s recommended to compare profiles of individuals as many other factors outside of where one is from impacts work-style preferences.
Collaborate Effectively – Research and test out innovative methods by which the team can collaborate. Utilize technology to your advantage: If the technology is available to all team members, use video conferencing to simulate face-to-face meetings and collaborative meeting rooms that enable white-board, polling, or other interactive elements for open collaboration. It is critical that team members and leaders be trained on the technologies available to them, and prepare for interactivity during meetings to ensure full collaboration. (For more suggestions on collaborative meeting best practices, visit the Tips for (Relatively) Pain-Free Conference Calls blog post.)
Empower Others – Establish team norms and accountability structures so that team members can make their own decisions related to the execution of work, or know where to go to when the accountability lays elsewhere. Also, provide clear accountability measures so that all members are aware of expectations around performance. Team members should be encouraged to empower one another to meet team goals collaboratively.
Celebrate Victories – On global virtual teams, it is often difficult to notice tangible victories. If teams can take the opportunity to celebrate the “wins” on a consistent and timely basis, team members will feel motivated and success can be built upon. When leaders managing global virtual teams encourage celebrating a team’s accomplishments as well as the contributions of each team member, global virtual teams are able to create strong bonds to carry forward. (To learn more about increasing employee engagement, you can visit the Employee Engagement and Culture blog post.)
By utilizing these best practices for virtual team collaboration, teams can establish a strong foundation from which their team can operate and succeed in an ultra-competitive global environment.
To learn more about our global and virtual collaboration solutions, please visit our Team Effectiveness solutions and be sure to check out our solutions specifically designed for maximizing virtual team effectiveness: