Successful Virtual Teams Know Teamwork

Tips for Managing Virtual Teams

Virtual Team Size Matters.

For starters, the best virtual team size is under 10 workers, according to Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research-based consulting and training company. In his blog post for the Harvard Business Review, he says the ideal team size is between four and five people, because this makes it easier to maintain an appropriate level of communication among group members.

“Small is better in part because relatively minor coordination and communication challenges grow exponentially as a virtual team grows,” he says, stressing that when team members are left out of the communication loop, trust is eroded within the group. (Source: Harvard Business Review, Keith Ferrazzi)

Ferrazzi also says that managers are often tempted to make the group larger than necessary, believing that a wider range of expertise is better. But in his experience, “… keeping the core team small while advisory groups gave input on an as-needed basis was more likely to be successful.”

Personality of Team Members Counts.

It might sound elementary, but make sure your team members actually want to take part in a virtual work experience. Ideally, they will be familiar with and appreciate the benefits of working remotely, and will thrive with little supervision. The best virtual team members are self-motivated, and they feel confident working without a structured daily routine – and the regular guidance and supervision usually found in a more traditional office setting.

Communication is key.

Virtual teams don’t have the same kind of regular, face-to-face meetings and conversations as traditional employees. That’s why effective communication is so important. Whether it’s through email or team collaboration software, members must be able to express themselves clearly, frequently and thoughtfully. Showing respect for diverse cultures, work habits and business philosophies is crucial, while also being able to appreciate the value of individual and group project contributions.

Teamwork Rules in Virtual Team Environments.

It’s all about working together, according to authors Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst. In their article, “How to Manage Virtual Teams,” good teamwork is on the list of major prerequisites. They emphasize that members of a virtual team members must have high levels of teamwork-related skills.

So, if you have a loner in your group, you just might want to move them out and onto an individual project. Otherwise, the virtual team will not perform and conflict will rule the day.

What skills should managers considers as necessary teamwork attributes when building their virtual teams? Here’s a complete checklist of what makes a good virtual team member, according to OnPoint Consulting.

An effective virtual team member:

  • Shows high levels of motivation
  • Is a good communicator
  • Collaborates well with others
  • Thrives when working in an unstructured environment
  • Is driven by goals and objectives
  • Works autonomously and is very self-disciplined
  • Is great with technology
  • Knows how to manage his/her time effectively
  • Solves problems quickly
  • Takes full responsibility for performance (not a blamer)

What’s Your Must Have Trait for Virtual Team Members?

Did we miss a key virtual team member trait? Share your thoughts on what teamwork-related skill needs to be added to our list in the comments below.