Lesson No. 3

By Rick Lepsinger and Darleen DeRosa Print this article Print

Many enterprises recycle the same guidelines they use for their co-located teams for their virtual teams and hope for the best. Frankly, that doesn’t work.

Lesson No. 3: “Soft” skills are essential. Soft skills make a difference in virtual team performance. We found that virtual teams that have skill development activities perform better than those that don’t.

Lesson No. 3 in action:

•              Use criteria and/or assessments when selecting individuals for virtual teams.

•              Use team-building sessions to help team members strengthen relationships and team effectiveness.

•              Assess team development needs and conduct skill-building on these areas.

Lesson No. 4: Create a high-touch environment. Technology has made virtual teaming possible, but it is not a substitute for human interaction. In addition to making virtual interaction more “human,” it’s critical that virtual team members meet in person. Yes, that requires time and money, but virtual teams that invest in one or two such meetings per year perform better than those that don’t.

Lesson No. 4 in action:

•              Leverage synchronous tools (e.g., IM) to increase spontan-eous communication.

•              Use tools such as electronic bulletin boards to create a sense of shared space.

•              Choose communication technologies that are most appropriate to the task.

•              Make wider use of video conferencing. Our research suggests that teams that use video technology perform better than those that don’t.

Lesson No. 5: Virtual team leadership matters. Research shows that leadership does have a statistically significant correlation with higher virtual team performance. Virtual team leaders must be sensitive to interpersonal communication and cultural factors. 

Lesson No. 5 in action:

•              Set clear goals and direction and revisit these as priorities shift.

•              Be responsive and accessible.

•              Create a system to easily integrate new team members.

•              Celebrate team achievements and successes.

Organizations set up virtual teams to address a particular business need, but many jump in without understanding what they are getting into. Better planning could dramatically improve their odds for success. There is a formula for success, and all today’s virtual teams need to do is put it to work.

Richard Lepsinger is president of OnPoint Consulting and has a 25-year track record of success as an organizational consultant and executive. In addition to writing Closing the Execution Gap, he has coauthored four books on leadership.

Darleen DeRosa, Ph.D., is a managing partner at OnPoint Consulting. In addition to Virtual Team Success, she has published book chapters and articles.

This article was originally published on 2011-07-28
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