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Each week Dale Carnegie Training Centers send out e-tips. We found this one to be particularly helpful since we work in a virtual environment ourselves. There are some great ideas on how to make the virtual environment work best for you.

The 9 Tips On Managing A Virtual Team Are:

Tip #1. Have A Live Meeting To Jump-Start The Project – When working on a long-term project or with a newly created team, we suggest having a live meeting first, so that everyone can meet face-to-face.  Doing so will help develop a well-built foundation the group can leverage over time.  Although it may appear to be a huge expense, experts feel that this investment will have a high return in the end. Tip #2. Take Advantage Of Today’s Technology – There are so many ways to communicate these days, from gotomeeting.com to web conferencing.  Although they can be useful, we suggest that you do not get too caught up in going 100% virtual.  While some of your employees will agree that it works and use it readily, others will be slow to adopt the technology.  Remember this: The best piece of equipment in today’s business world is still the telephone. Tip #3. Know The Time Zones Everyone Is In – One problem many people have when working with a virtual team is knowing the time zone changes for the entire team.  Whether it is calls to the east coast, west coast or even calls to Europe or Asia, you need to respect the time zones everyone works in.  And if you are global, you need to understand that not everyone is going to have a convenient call-in time. Tip #4. Keep Your Calls To 45 – 60 Minutes – Whenever you are on a national or global team call, there will be some people driving the call while others sit back and listen.  To keep everyone mentally tuned in, try to keep calls to a maximum of 45 – 60 minutes.  At the end of the call, have someone summarize the call before you close using defined action items, and then send out an e-mail in outline form for easy follow-up. Tip #5. Keep Everyone Actively Involved With The Conference Calls – One of the best ways to keep a conference call working is for everyone to call in on separate lines.  Doing so will keep people focused on what the topic is and allow them to run any applications via their own computer.  If not, you run the risk of people not talking loud enough if they are in a conference room or not seeing the details during the presentation. Tip #6. Focus On Your Meeting And Project Management Skills – As the team or project manager, you need to keep your meeting and project management skills sharp.  The importance of having an agenda, role definitions, action items and documentation amplify when there is a virtual team formed for a project. Tip #7. Schedule One-on-One Calls With Your Team – We often suggest scheduling one-on-one calls with your team members, as this provides an opportunity to build rapport with them.  Schedule these one-on-one calls every 4 – 6 weeks in order to maintain that rapport. Tip #8. Develop Team Building Skills – Work on team building projects that can help build trust and cooperation among your staff.  We suggest going to Google and running a search on “low-cost team building exercises.” Tip #9. Give People Time To Review Related Content – No matter what time zone your team members live in or language they speak, we recommend giving everyone 36 hours to review your documentation.  We also recommend sending an agenda a full 24 hours before a conference call so that participants can print the agenda and read it that day or the following morning over a cup of coffee. Executive Summary:  A virtual group’s dynamic is always changing based on personalities, skill sets and project scope.  Additionally, you need to be consciously aware of your team building, project management skills and one-on-one team building skills.  Once you have mastered these three things, you will find life as a virtual team member will be a lot easier for everyone (including you).

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