Virtual Teams as True Teams

I had to read the Harvard Business Review article "The Discipline of Teams" by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith for my Jack Welch EMBA Leadership class.

The premise of the article is that most "teams" are really "working groups" and for them to be a true "team," they have to have the following characteristics:
  1. a meaningful and shared purpose they helped form;
  2. specific performance goals based on the shared purpose;
  3. a mix of complementary skills;
  4. agreement on how the work gets done and contribution by all; and 
  5. mutual accountability.
Since I now work part-time for a fully remote company, and manage and interact remotely, the above made me realize that if virtual "teams" were true teams, their being virtual would be less of an issue.

Unlike in an office where you can easily stop by to check-in, communicate, and track progress, it takes effort when everyone is distributed. So if you establish the virtual team with the five "team" principles from the get-go, that effort will be minimal.

Here's how:
  1. Get buy-in from each hired member on the team's purpose. Make sure they're aligned and let them personalize it a bit so they feel it's truly theirs.
  2. Use this shared purpose to come up with the team's performance goals, then add individual goals based on each member's personal purpose.
  3. Hire for a mixed range of skills, not those that are just like you; know team members' strengths and weaknesses and try to fill the gaps.
  4. Get buy-in on who does what, how this will be shared, and at what frequency.
  5. And everyone should hold everyone accountable to the above. 
As you can see, by hiring correctly for a virtual team, setting proper expectations up front, and then holding everyone accountable to these, it will be as easy working remotely as in person.

Have you lead virtual teams? Any other tips to offer?

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