Getting to Know Your Virtual Team: 10 Strategies
Is your business expanding or restructuring? Perhaps you’ve recently transitioned into a leadership role leading virtual team members. Whatever the reason, getting to know your remote team is critical to creating a solid foundation of trust and understanding.
Although it can seem daunting to create new relationships when your team is distributed, your entire team will be more productive and effective for it. And thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to forge those connections despite the distance.
Tips for Connecting With Your Virtual Team
Getting to know your team members beyond the work they submit is essential for a thriving team environment. Despite the distance, it is possible to connect on a professional level that builds trust and relationships.
1. Start With an Introductory Meeting
Use your first meeting to lay the groundwork for future communication and collaboration. Designate time for each team member to introduce themselves and their roles. Even if they’ve worked together before, if you’re a new leader for the team, it’s a good idea to start from the beginning. Be sure to clearly explain your team’s expectations for communication, collaboration, and goals.
2. Use Virtual Icebreakers
Team-building activities offer massive value to any new team meeting, even if it’s easier to skip at times. Some might see these activities as silly, but they provide a fantastic opportunity for everyone in the meeting to relax and get to know each other better. Instead of merely introducing yourself, engaging in fun activities allows you to learn more about the others present, become more comfortable with unfamiliar faces, and build connections that could last for years.
Start with virtual icebreakers or a preplanned activity, ask creative questions, and keep things lighthearted. If you need some ideas, check out this list of 43 virtual team-building activities from teambuilding.com or these five-minute ideas from tryroots.io.
3. Establish Response Standards
Outside of meetings, be mindful of the challenges that virtual communication adds to team interactions. Get ahead of uncertainties by establishing communication standards early on. That way, more introverted team members won’t be left wondering if they should reach out or respond to you.
Use a friendly tone to set expectations for response times, availability, and the means of communication. For example, will emails suffice? Or, do you want team members to use Slack? You’ll show that you take organization seriously and strive to eliminate confusion.
4. Regularly Schedule One-on-One Chats
No matter how busy your schedule is, keep your finger on the pulse of your team. Ensure you’re getting to know your virtual team members personally, not just professionally.
Have routine chats over the phone or video and ask conversational, non-business-related questions to break the ice. Some team members may be less comfortable interacting virtually at first. Intentionally guide the conversation to put them at ease and ensure you’re sensitive to their comfort levels.
5. Be Proactive in Asking for Feedback
How does your team feel about your leadership or the direction of projects and work distribution? Making time for feedback is essential to building trust in any relationship—and possibly more so with virtual teams where you can’t read body language and communication signals as easily.
When presenting ideas or holding meetings, give team members space to share their thoughts and opinions. Encourage them to speak up, and ensure you listen carefully to their feedback.
6. Provide Space for Team Small Talk
There’s no break room, watercooler, or office to swing by for casual conversation. You’ll need to build that aspect into your team dynamic. Try to leave time before or after meetings for informal discussions, especially when dealing with new ideas. Allowing everyone the chance to get to know each other better will help your team build stronger relationships and trust.
If there’s no time before or after meetings, consider routinely holding informal chats. You may need to provide virtual gift cards for coffeehouses for the first meeting or two to get the energy and interest flowing. Not everyone will be eager for the chat, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how many virtual team members long for connection. As they’re chatting, you’ll gain valuable insights into each team member.
7. Celebrate Successes and Events Together
Whether it’s a significant business milestone or a team member celebrating a work anniversary, be sure to recognize special occasions. Make an effort to send virtual cards and team gifts for special events. Celebrating together is part of forming relationships and helps keep morale high, even when you can’t be with them in person.
When the team has achieved a milestone or goal, ensure that you express appreciation and initiate virtual high-fives to set a congratulatory tone.
8. Introduce Team Members to One Another
Getting to know your team is easier if they know each other as well. If your team has different roles that don’t mirror each other, consider asking each member to explain their duties. Other team members might need more clarification on their tasks and workload.
As understanding grows, so will appreciation and support for each other. And if you’re new to the team, this is an excellent way to build a foundation for individual development conversations.
9. Devote Attention to Team Member Development
Tying into that tip, providing your team with stretch assignments and opportunities is a great way to get to know them better. When you devote time to discussions about career goals, you indicate their professional growth matters.
Follow up on conversations about individual development and career plans with mentorship where it makes sense. You’ll empower team members to take ownership of their growth and provide support where necessary.
10. Think Outside the Office
Depending on your team and their work, can some of your meetings be held as themed meetings? Not every role or team can support this, but for those that can, you can host a bring-your-favorite-pet-to-the-meeting day. Or, you may have meetings that don’t require a computer presence. Why not host a team walking session or meet from your favorite coffee shops or park?
You’ll need to be mindful of the materials you’d be discussing in public settings and support team members uncomfortable working from other spaces. But those willing to try something different could find the change of scenery refreshing.
Getting to Know Your Virtual Team
When you have a new remote team, communication can seem daunting at first glance. However, the same leadership qualities apply, even if you’re not in the same building. Transparent expectations along with a genuine interest in your team can help you build a solid foundation.
For more tips on successfully communicating with and managing a remote team, check out Remote.co’s remote management best practices!
By Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley | Categories: Remote Management