In the traditional work environment we rely on physical proximity to tap into the spirit and energy of teams. What if your team members work remotely from each other? A virtual team must build the same sense of community and shared purpose.
The key is in our communications and the way we convey the common purpose of the group. Since gatherings play such a big role in building shared purpose, this post will address the special considerations of virtual team meetings.
Before the Meeting
- Take time to build trust with team members one-on-one before you begin virtual team meetings. Members of a virtual team who know they are trusted will be more forthcoming with ideas and will challenge group thinking in a healthy way. Use one-on-one time to ensure each team member understands the bigger picture and is aligned with the individual contribution they can make.
- Be considerate of team members in different time zones. There’s an excellent meeting-planning tool at timeanddate.com that allows you to input the meeting date and attendee cities to calculate best times. The date feature is a real boon as not all areas participate in daylight savings time.
During the Meeting
- Pick your meeting tools in advance and stick with them. If there are handouts, ensure they are sent to everyone in advance. Avoid the temptation to create last-minute documents to hand to in-person attendees leaving the remote members at a loss. If you have chosen to use net conferencing technology, familiarize yourself fully with tool functionality to increase group participation.
- Be aware of the group dynamic during meetings. The most challenging meetings are those where some team members are gathered in the same room while others dial in. Part of the challenge stems from our natural propensity for communicating through body language. Think about the last meeting you attended in person. How many questions were answered with a head nod, a sideways glance or perhaps by silently pointing to a sheet of paper? We can counteract some of this by narrating for the remote members. This inclusive behavior will keep your remote teammates informed and will also help everyone learn virtual meeting best practices.
After the Meeting
- Create an easy way for team members to update shared action plans or collaborate on documents. Sharepoint is easy to use and can be quickly configured to allow for confidentiality if that is a concern. If your company does not have a collaboration tool, you can use a blogging site like WordPress with appropriate privacy settings.