What's The Sweet Sauce In Virtual Teams?

As a member of Forrest Johnson Recruiting, a 100% virtual team, I understand first-hand the challenges and opportunities associated with managing a team virtually and being an active member of a virtual team.  What is the sweet sauce to successful teams?  What are the ingredients that make a virtual team effective?  Just in time for the new year, I have a special recipe for success for you!

For the purpose of this article, a virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space. It is usually in a network of several workplaces technologically connected (via a private network or the internet) without regard to geographic boundaries. Employees are thus able to interact in a Collaborative Working Environment regardless of where they are located. A virtual workplace integrates hardware, people, and online processes.

According to Upwork, the largest freelancing website, remote workforce is on the rise.  The organization released the results of its second annual Future Workforce Report, which explores hiring behaviors of over 1,000 U.S. managers. The discovery? As companies struggle to fill the skills gap, they are embracing agile, remote teams to get work done. In fact, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of companies today have remote workers and 55% of hiring managers agree that remote work has become more commonplace than compared with three years ago.

The Buffer Team shared in their State of Remote Work 2018 Report: What It’s Like to be a Remote Worker in 2018 that 90% of remote workers plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers and 94% of those surveyed indicate they would encourage others to work remotely.  So, what is needed to prepare for this type of workforce and its demands?

Here is a Recipe for Success:



Step One:  Add one tablespoon of Accountability.  In the book Traction by Gino Wickman, the author discusses the accountability chart in its "The People Component" chapter.  Each member of the team should understand their role and what they are required to do to make the team a success.  Holding members accountable facilitates processes and ensures everyone understands what is expected of them.  With the Forrest Johnson team, we have been engaged in the process of defining seats and ensuring everyone who holds a particular seat not only has the desire for that role but also the capacity.  "People need to be able to take the ball and run with it" (page 99).



Step Two:  Add three dashes of Connectedness and two slices of Opportunities for Fun. In brick and mortar teams, relationships are typically deepened through conversations that occur near the water cooler, outside team members' cubicles, or in the restroom.  With that in mind, it is essential to find times throughout the year where the team can connect in person for quarterly meetings but also regularly as a team for FUN.  As a member of the FJ team, I look forward to our quarterly meetings where we strategize and review the previous quarter's efforts.  I also look forward to our annual holiday gatherings where we have the opportunity to connect without discussing work.  Additionally, during our weekly meetings, we use the Level 10 Meeting agendas, as described in the book Traction, to spend a few minutes sharing about our personal events over the last week before diving into the week's business tasks.  All are efforts to foster community.


Step Three:  You will need a cup of regular One on One Meetings.  Regular one on one meetings serve multiple purposes - the opportunity to check -in, enforce accountability, identify and address any issues as well as discuss steps for future actions.  Drew and Erin Johnson do a phenomenal job of checking in weekly with each team member to offer support and implement adjustments as needed.  Having a regular check-up allows for ongoing communication and the ability to reinforce expectations, a MUST for remote teams.







Step Four:  Apply Vision liberally and work it in!  Once everyone on the team embraces a vision it is easier for the team to head in a specific direction.  Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, discusses the metaphor of "having the right people on the bus" and ensuring the bus is headed in the right direction.  Vision offers the ability to provide direction to teams and companies.  The success of a remote team is contingent upon the vision and if it is applied liberally and infused in every aspect of the company.  As this image above illustrates, vision must be worked in every nook and cranny! 



Final Step:  Mix until the mixture thickens.  Putting all these aforementioned ingredients together requires care and attention.  Managers and leaders will need to work diligently to cast the vision, check in regularly and provide instances for remote team members to connect whenever feasible.  This effort all takes time, repetition, trial, and error.  As with a recipe, tweaks may be needed to fit the needs of your business or team.





The finished product is a well-balanced team, where everyone knows their role and what to do to achieve greatness for all!  Do you have the right ingredients for your remote workforce?


**Special mention to my husband who allowed me to capture his efforts while preparing dinner to help drive home the points shared in this article.  His images were WAY better than photo stock images!  :-)**

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