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5 tips for leading a virtual team

Technological advancements have had a profound impact on the ways businesses operate. In particular, staff members can connect with each other through different of remote communication options from most anywhere in the world at any given time. Consequently, you may find that in today's work environment, the teams you supervise may not all be physically present in a single location. 

When you can't simply walk down the hall to discuss strategies and objectives with your employees, you can use these five tips to more effectively manage your team: 

1. Use multiple means of communication
If you can't discuss issues with your staff members face-to-face, you need to have multiple channels of communication open when possible. Make sure that your team members check their emails regularly, remain close to their phones and stay active on any internal messaging systems. This will limit the chance that you can't get ahold of a particular person when you need a quick answer.  

2. Define objectives clearly
When communication challenges arise within a virtual team, the first things to get lost in translation are day-to-day responsibilities. As such, it's important to make sure that group and individual objectives are always clearly defined. If possible, always send an email summary of any plans that are discussed via video conferencing or phone call to ensure that these aims are outlined in a place that employees can reference at a later time if needed. 

Thanks to remote conferencing technology, it's easier than ever to work with a team that's not physically present. Thanks to remote conferencing technology, it's easier than ever to work with a team that's not physically present.

3. Keep work hours consistent
When employees keep different hours, they may not always be available when they're needed. This slows down workflow and makes for less efficient processes. Some members of your team may be living in different time zones, which can cause difficulties. If possible, keep the hours of your team as consistent as possible. That may mean that certain people may need to start their days earlier or later in their respective time zones.   

4. Communicate the big picture
When professionals work away from the main office, it may be hard for them to understand how their individual tasks and responsibilities fit into the big picture. Regular discussions - whether verbally or through email - about group objectives are consequently important. 

5. Don't neglect the basics
While leading a virtual team may feel unusual, keep in mind that the principles of business remain the same. 

"Remember that global, virtual, distributed teams are composed of people just like any other team,"  Mark Mortensen, associate professor of Organisational Behaviour at the INSEAD business school, wrote for the Harvard Business Review. "The more you and your team members can keep this in mind, the better your results will be."  

With a little extra intentionality, you can manage your team in much the same way as you would at a physical location. Learn more about leadership from ProSolutions Training's online training course "Leadership: Recognizing the Leader in You."