Virtual Team Building

Shawnee Love   •
September 18, 2020

Whether you have a team of people on the road or a team of people around the world, virtual teams operate a lot like the team you see every day.  No matter what, a performing team needs to have:

  1. People who value and are capable of working in a team.
  2. A goal they are trying to achieve together.
  3. A united reason why they want to achieve that goal.
  4. Agreement on common standards, practices and values for how they will work together and treat each other.
  5. Commitment to practicing to get better.  (To paraphrase Coach Wooden, “If excellence was quick or easy, everyone would do it”).
  6. Skill sets that complement each other (and sometimes overlap to the extent required).
  7. Understanding of the roles and responsibilities for themselves and all the others in the team.
  8. Respect for each others’ expertise, roles, and contributions.
  9. Belief that each member is necessary for the team to succeed.
  10. A successful method for resolving disagreements.

That’s pretty much the formula we follow for building a team no matter where in the world the team members are.  However, when your team is virtual or has virtual members, some of this recipe is harder to create because communications don’t occur organically as they would in person.  Thus, when managing a virtual team, communication needs to be fostered and facilitated. Effective ways to do this include:

  • Regular meetings: Regular becomes habitual which is good for teamwork and team building as long as they are not stale or a waste of time.  Ensure these regular meetings are purposeful and effective by having different “meetings” for different things. I.e., you may have a regular monthly gathering to update on company projects overall and yet do weekly or even daily huddles to keep projects on track.
  • Chat/ Instant Messaging Tools or Forums: Great for collaborating, asking questions, and sharing information and the best ones have search features as well, instant communications mimic talking with the person beside you.
  • Social “meetings”: In a workplace, employees cross paths at watercoolers, lunch rooms, hallways and even washrooms in ways they can’t when someone is virtual. To foster the interpersonal connections needed for a strong team, social interactions are needed, so be creative and have fun with the types of “meetings” you implement.  Beverage tastings, book clubs, travel clubs, step or km challenges, online scavenger hunts, etc. all can be ways to connect, but the best way is the method that works for your team.

Finally, never underestimate the value of bringing your team together.  Teams work better when they connect and care about each other and an occasional in person opportunity can be worth hours and hours of video, email, and instant chats even if you social distance while at it.  As the saying goes, the team that plays together stays together, so make the in-person times fun and invest to ensure everyone can attend.

What would you add to these team building tips?