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5 Tips for Leading a Virtual Team

A female project manager at her laptop on the phone with her virtual team.Most new project managers look to settle themselves into their project as comfortably as possible, and for most of us that means doing the kind of thing we are used to.

However, what happens when you are thrown in at the deep end and ask to work in the kind of environment which you have no experience of? For some people a change of role combined with a change of type of working environment can be too big a hurdle to consider taking.

For many of us the idea of working in a virtual project team for the first time was a tall order. If you are used to dealing with people who sit across from you and who eat their lunch at the same time as you then it can be hard to switch to virtual team working. Here are a few tips for getting it right.

Establish a Relationship

It can be really difficult to establish a strong working relationship which people you have never met in real life. To push the project forward you will need to get everyone working together as a team, so getting a bond between team members is vital. Making sure that everyone feels part of the same team is really the key here and you don’t want anyone sitting around feeling left out or under-appreciated. Just think how you would feel if you were far from the action and it appeared that no one was that bothered about keeping you in the loop or making you feel part of the team.

Get Your Communication Right

Part of the previous point is to do with communication but it really deserves a point on its own as well. When you all work together in the same room you don’t need to think about communication quite as much .It is always an important issue but it is something which often comes naturally. When your team is scattered around the country or over the world this factor takes on far more importance. Often the remote team members won’t receive any information other than that which you send them, so you need to make sure that they get what they need to operate effectively and feel that you haven’t forgotten them.

Talk Together

Your team meetings are always important occasions but even more so when they are the one chance in the week to get everyone together. Even if this is something you need to do through video conferencing facilities you should still try and make it a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. This is where everyone gets to speak their piece and find out what they need to know, so try to make it an unhurried type of meeting where everyone feels comfortable about speaking up and clearing up any doubts they have.  You should ensure that once you arrange the team meetings you stick to them and make sure that everyone else does that too. A lack of proper team meetings can be disastrous in this kind of project.

Meet If You Can

There is nothing like a good old fashioned face to face meeting to help move along the team bonding.  Clearly this won’t be possible if your team is split over 2 or more continents but if you are closer together it is worth considering. Perhaps there is a neutral meeting place which you could all get to easily or maybe you could get everyone else to make a visit to the place where you are based? This isn’t strictly speaking an essential part of the project process but it is something which is well worth doing if you can, to try and get people working happily together.

Be Understanding

Perhaps the biggest barriers to having a virtual project team working together are the softer issues. These could be cultural barriers, language problem, different working hours or other such matters. Above all, it pays to be understanding and to realize that not everyone will work in the same way in this kind of environment. You might need to think in a different sort of way in order to make your virtual team work perfectly but it will be worth it in the end. You will learn a lot from this kind of project and you will probably find that it is something which stands you in good stead in the future. You will certainly find that working in a project where everyone is in the same office seems a lot easier in the future.

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