How to Lead a Virtual Team (and Win Big!)

Recruit, lead and manage the right players on your remote team.

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Recruit, lead and manage the right players on your remote team.

These days, start-ups and entrepreneurs across the country are building virtual teams to help them achieve their business dreams. Increasing efficiency and productivity, reducing overhead and expanding into new markets are among the top perks of building a virtual business team.

“Technology has enabled us to communicate in ways that are unprecedented in the history of the business world as we know it,” says Yael Zofi, founder of human capital consulting firm Applied Innovative Management (AIM) Strategies, and author of “A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams.” “Small business owners can now get their talent anywhere.”

It’s easier than ever to build a virtual team to boost your business. But to ensure that you have the right players, and that they have the support to succeed, Zofi recommends the following tips.

Know the qualities of a five-star player. While interviewing potential virtual employees, Zofi suggests entrepreneurs or team managers ask probing questions to determine if a candidate is a self-starter, self-sufficient, comfortable with change, meets deadlines, has a troubleshooting personality, is open to collaboration, is generally easy to talk to and has an outgoing disposition. These qualities are crucial to succeeding in virtual work environments.

Make collaboration the rule. Members of your virtual team should feel empowered to reach out to someone on the management team if they have concerns. The highly successful virtual team member is not just sitting in a corner quietly, but takes initiative instead, picks up the phone when there’s a problem and engages with their managers to solve it.

Put the right leaders in place. Managers need a unique skill set when working to lead a virtual team. The most effective virtual team managers are well-organized, prepared people who know that they must institute mechanisms to ensure the company’s success. This includes working with the team to create a series of “team codes,” the communication standard used to detail how the team will work together focusing on the vision, mission, and goals of the company. The details can include how the team will handle conflict, what form of communication they will use, what technology they will employ, how a team who rarely (if ever) sees each other will build trust and accountability, and how the team will enforce a steadfast dedication to human engagement.

“‘Virtual team’ doesn’t mean out of sight, out of mind,” Zofi says. “Higher performing virtual teams actually spell it all out, from how to handle working in different time zones to how to run your meetings. It’s important to be clear about the direction and strategies that you want and work together to adjust and realign along the way.”

The team structure and composition has to be top of mind, followed by thoughtful and detailed planning, a clear line of communication, and an understanding of the company’s expectations and goals. But there’s one simple detail that should never be forgotten.

“Higher performing virtual teams all have positive attitudes ,” says Zofi. “They can overcome challenges better with a can-do attitude that allows them to look at a situation and say, ‘How do we overcome this? How do we learn from this, and how do we then give each other the benefit of the doubt?’”

Managing a productive virtual team can yield huge benefits for your small business, as long as you have the right people in place.

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