Building a Virtual Team

Posted October 24th, 2014
A good process to follow if you are building a virtual team (or refocusing an existing virtual team) is to set up an agreed approach to ways of working. In order to do this, we must first look at what makes up an effective virtual team.
Shared objectives
The virtual team must understand what it is they are trying to achieve as a team. This means highlighting the team goals and objectives and linking this to organisational strategy wherever possible.
Knowledge of what to do
Further than knowing what their objectives are, they should also have clarity around how they should do their job and what you expect of them in the role. This might include processes and procedures and any plans they must follow.
Tools to do it
If there are certain ways of working, what are they? Are their preferred tools, technology, and guidelines they can use to achieve their goals?
Ability to do it
Do they have the ability and knowledge to use the tools of their job. If not, what can be done to help them develop?
Desire to do it
Are they motivated and inspired to perform their jobs well and to the ways you have agreed?
So, if you are aiming to move your virtual team to a position where they feel that all of the above questions are answered for them, you will need to establish ground rules with the team and ensure they are clear on what you are trying to achieve together.
Virtual team managers set ground rules during the initial team meeting. During this meeting, they must:
  • Articulate team goals and objectives
  • List roles and responsibilities
  • Determine when and how the team will communicate both formally and informally

– Team meetings
– Information sharing
– Guidelines and rules for using different technologies
– External communication

  • Determine standards for when and how to coordinate team tasks

– Communicating status to manager, team members, client
– Tracking tasks
– Risk management

  • Set guidelines for collaboration

– Brainstorming
– Sharing documents
– Making decisions

  • Devise a strategy for relationship and trust building from a distance

– Virtual community
– Reliability
– Conflict management

  • Determine when and how to execute best practices for performance management

– One-on-one meetings
– Motivational and formative feedback

Working on these key ground rules and guidelines as a team will help ensure you begin from a starting point of trust. You may have a good idea of how you want to approach each of the elements that you include in your initial meeting, but if your virtual team feels that these are being thrust upon them rather than decided as a group, you may find that they rebel against them and your efforts will have been wasted.

There will of course be elements of the discussion that are not up for debate, perhaps where policy or process are important, and in these cases you should make it very clear why you have made the decisions you have so that there is no confusion or opportunity for dissent.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training course materials for ‘Managing a Virtual Team’, which can be purchased from our website at



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