When Hank came to me for some coaching and advice, he had recently inherited a hybrid virtual team. Four of the team members were in the home office (where he was) and the remaining six team members worked virtually.
Hank’s assumption that managing a virtual team would be just like managing the other two collocated teams he oversaw was quickly proved wrong.
In the first team meeting he convened, Hank realized there was no sense of “team” to speak of in this group of employees whose work was, in fact, interdependent with each other. There were no shared goals, no working together and helping each other out, nor any willingness to be vulnerable with each other.
After the first disastrous meeting, Hank had one-on-one conversations with each member of the team to find out what their perceptions were. Here’s what he learned:
• For the most part, the four employees in the home office felt like those who worked virtually didn’t work as hard as they did.
• One of the virtual members was a lone wolf; she focused on her own work, had a lot of drive and excelled. Individually.
• Another virtual member felt perpetually out of the loop. He thought that the team members in the home office had access to more information, resources and a network of people they could go to help get their work done.
• One virtual team member felt that the previous manager had micro-managed her work and she was frustrated and disengaged as a result.
• Conversely, another virtual member felt that the previous manager provided insufficient guidance and direction, and he felt lost as a result.
• The remaining two virtual team members were so cynical and jaded from their experiences that they weren’t forthcoming with Hank about what the issues were.
Hank realized he had his work cut out for him. He knew the importance of bringing a sense of community to this virtual team (in fact, he thought it was generous to call them a team at all!). Hank knew that creating a team out of this group was possible and that it would take some diligence and some new ideas to make it happen.
Together, Hank and I put together a plan of action that would eventually build this motley crew into a team, including interdependence, vulnerability and helping one another.
Check out the blog post below for a few of the specific techniques I shared with Hank for developing community in virtual teams.