Virtual Global Teamwork

What does it take to establish and maintain effective, virtual teamwork with today’s “alternative work movement”?

With the nostalgia of water cooler chat now a thing of the past for so many, how do virtual managers and workers build a team with cohesive vision, real understanding of context and open, friendly camaraderie?

Beyond all the benefits of a growing virtual workforce, a change of this magnitude can’t help but also create new challenges. Recently one article in particular caught my eye called, “Successful Leadership in a Virtual Workforce World”. It states that amongst the exploding movement of home offices, a result that is rising along with it has been coined “virtual distance” and that “The problem is that while the way we work has changed, the way leaders lead those workforces has not”.

This raises an interesting point. Who’s leading who? And further, what’s the impact on teamwork and a cohesive framework that everyone operates from when you all don’t sit 5 feet away from each other?

One of the challenges of a virtual workforce is less opportunity to cultivate community between team members, possibly resulting in reduced understanding of the context, framework and circumstances of the project and tasks. Luckily, this challenge can be overcome, and creative business models are emerging to address this. In fact, the article goes on with Karen Sobel Lojeski’s “Virtual Distance Leadership Model”, which consists of three core competencies for leading today’s virtual workforce: Creating Context, Cultivating Community, and Co-Activating New Leaders.

As new business models emerge out of necessity to manage a virtual workforce, a new definition of teamwork evolves as well. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help and resources available, such as Global Dynamics Inc., providing programs for managing or working successfully in a virtual environment.

Fortunately, the very technology that has forged a virtual workforce in the first place can also provide the solution to what could be considered the next-best-thing to sitting next to each other and smelling coffee on your colleague’s breath. With e-learning, webcams, desktop sharing and folder sharing programs, teleconferences and Webinars, there is no reason to not stay connected and feel a part of the team on the same page. All it takes is a bit of motivation and know-how to feel as though you’re all working in the same office, minus the commute.

The responsibility to take the initiative to cultivate effective teamwork falls into both courts of the Virtual Worker and business or client. Just some of the qualities that are called for from each include:

Client / Manager / Employer –

– Establishes a regular routine of team meetings or communications;
– Is creative and proactive with utilizing new methods of interaction;
– Sets the tone of open communication;
– Is willing to utilize new technologies to accommodate real-time collaborations, such as screen sharing or Webinar technologies;
– Has a genuine interest to include the Virtual Worker (“VW”) in teleconference /Webinar meetings to keep them abreast of developments;
– Can identify when VW needs assistance / clarity;
– Communicates their goals and expectations clearly;
– Invites open communication / feedback / questions / suggestions;
– Demonstrates appreciation.

Virtual Worker (whether employee or independent contractor) –

– Self motivated and disciplined
– Reaches out to be included in meetings and communications rather than remain isolated or aloof;
– Balances their workload to be able to include ample time for inclusion in communications and meetings;
– Is willing to utilize new technologies to accommodate real-time collaborations, such as screen sharing or Webinar technologies;
– Is resourceful for finding solutions and creative contributions;
– Strikes a healthy balance between working independently, and as part of a team or partnership;
– Utilizes their own resources and networks to creatively find answers and solutions – takes the initiative;
– Knows when to ask for help, and senses the appropriate level of support they should require.

The ideal virtual workforce should leave no one behind, wondering what their role is and how they fit into the team. Indeed, with Citrix Online’s recent report on workplace trends confirming that “Nearly 75% of all workers want the freedom to work remotely from home or somewhere else away from the office,” charting new ways of virtual teamwork will only provide big rewards for everyone involved.

Guest Blogger: Shari Montgomery, Virtually There Admin

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  1. […] Click HERE for my guest blog for Westcoast Way Consulting. Filed under:Writing […]

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