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  • Mark Howard

Key ingredients for a high-performing virtual team


Remote working has been forced upon many businesses for the majority of this year (and it looks like this is the way it will be for the next 6 months at least). While some business owners have struggled with managing a virtual team, others have thrived, so this has prompted us to look at what the differences are between a co-located and a virtual team. Here is what we found.


What does a virtual team need to be successful?

  1. Right team – it isn’t easy working from home. It takes a lot of discipline, self-motivation, and organisation. Only people who have this can work on a location-dependent basis successfully.

  2. Right leadership – in a virtual team, leadership needs to adapt from a manager role to one that is more like a coach. To monitor and increase performance, you need consistent communication and to take the time to support your team members.

  3. Right technology – a virtual team can only perform if they have the right tools and software to do their work and they have to have the necessary training to be able to use it.

  4. Right touchpoints – communication is essential with a virtual team, so you need to reach out at the right times and in the right way to get the best from people. This may be a weekly check-in or a daily update from everyone.

  5. Purpose – having a shared sense of purpose and everyone knowing their ‘why’ and how they fit into the business’s overall vision is incredibly essential with a virtual team. Knowing how much their work is of value and how it contributes to the team is incredibly empowering and motivating.

  6. Direction and short team goals – to perform well, every team member needs to know what they are expected to do, by when, and how this relates to the goals of the team and the overall business. Schedule in a monthly team meeting to check that everyone knows what is expected of them as it’s very easy to be busy doing nothing while working from home.

  7. Psychological safety – while working from home, your team’s mental health can suffer (especially during the pandemic) so you’ll need to help them with this. Model good self-care yourself, check-in with each member personally every month, and emphasise that everyone is safe in their jobs and that the business is safe (if you can do so).

  8. Trust – trust is hard to build when team members are so far apart, so try to give everyone the opportunity to mix on a personal level. This could be setting up personal chat threads, scheduling in time to have lunch together or organising some fun events into the calendar (like a virtual chocolate workshop where you can bake together!).

  9. Responsibility and autonomy – assign different members different tasks on a shared project management software (such as Monday.com). That way everyone can see what they are responsible for in the group and this reinforces this sense of shared responsibility for the team’s success.

  10. Right time, right place touchpoints – some members may need more communication and support than others so keep an eye on everyone’s performance and reach out to those who need it more when they need it. This could be a weekly video call to check in rather than WhatsApp’s or emails.

  11. Management by exception – a coaching approach should nurture high-performance most of the time, but there will be points where you need to be a manager. If someone’s performance is lacking after you have done everything that you can to help rectify this, you may need to warn that team member or, as a last resort, let them go.

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