Distributed teams (a.k.a. virtual teams) are similar to and different from co-located teams. Three key attributes impact the ability to form, manage, and motivate distributed teams: (1) distance, (2) technology, and (3) time.
Distance requires team members to use alternative methods of interacting (usually technology) and many of the cues are missing. Distance also may introduce cultural differences between team members who are located in different parts of the world. Assumptions and communication norms may differ subtly or quite radically.
Technology influences communication behaviors. Let’s face it: people don’t behave the same way on chat as they do face-to-face. Even if they did, it would be hard to decipher it through the small amount of information transmitted. The employment of technology also necessitates the acquisition of technical skills. Some people are more tech savvy than others and it can make a big difference on successful performance in a virtual team.
Time challenges the coordination of team members because they may be located in different time zones and have different work schedules. It may be hard to find a mutually convenient time to meet or to have a deadline when you’re dealing with people across the globe.
Here are a variety of resources for dealing with the challenges associated with distributed and virtual teams.
- How to Get Web Meetings off to the Right Start
- Setting Ground Rules
- Top 10 Tips for Managing a Distributed Team
- 3 Characteristics of Successful Virtual Teams
- Tips for Talking on the Phone
- Working in a Virtual Team
- Communication Problems in the Workplace
- Lack of Communication Leads to Conflicts at Work
FAVORITE RESOURCES FOR HOT TOPICS
Managing Virtual Teams:
- Article: 22-File-Sharing Tools for Easy Collaboration
- Blog: Top 10 Online Collaboration and Document Sharing Tools
- Book: Managing Telework: Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workforce by Jack M. Nilles
- Book: Working Virtually: Managing People for Successful Virtual Teams and Organizations by Trina Hoefling
- Book: A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt
- Video: Lynda.com, “Management tutorial: Keeping a virtual team connected”
- Article: Computer World, “6 Rules for Better Communication in Virtual Teams”
- Webinar: Harvard Business Review, “5 Essential Communication Skills to Catapult Your Career”
- Blog: Lullabot, “Communication for Distributed Teams: The Secrets to Staying Together, Apart”
- Book: The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
- Book: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
- Book: Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization by Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina
- Book: The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey
- Book: The Blame Game: How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure by Ben Dattner
- Article: Harvard Business Review, “How to Manage Conflict in Virtual Teams”
- Blog: “Five tips for Handling Conflict in a Virtual Team.”
- Book: Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration by Stewart Levine
Keeping People Engaged
- Book: Love ‘Em or Lose “Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans
Balancing Work and Life
- Book: Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor without Driving Yourself Nuts by Flip Brown
ARTICLES ON VIRTUAL WORK BY JOANIE CONNELL
- Connell, J. B. (2002). Organizational consulting to virtual teams. In R. L. Lowman (Ed.) Handbook of Organizational Consulting Psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Connell, J. B., Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, K., L., & Johnson, S. T. (2004). The Birth of a Telecommuter Selection Instrument: Results of a Validation Study. Proceedings of the International Telework Academy 9th International Telework Workshop, (Crete, Greece: September 6 – 9, 2004).
- Connell, J. B., Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, K., L., & Ellis, S. J. (2003). Identifying successful telecommuters. Proceedings from the International Association for Development of the Information Society International Conference: WWW/Internet 2003, (Algarve, Portugal: November 5 – 8, 2003).
- Connell, J. B., Velez, P., Weiland, C., Ellis, S. (2003). Developing and Maintaining Trust in Virtual Teams: A Case Study of Distance Education Methods. Proceedings from the Hawaii International Conference on Education, (Honolulu, HI: January 7 – 10, 2003).
- Connell, J. B. (2002). Organizational consulting for virtual teams. In R. L. Lowman (Ed.) Handbook of Organizational Consulting Psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Connell, J. B. (2000). Influencing and perceiving others: How communication media affect impression management and person perception. Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley.
- Connell, J. B., Mendelsohn, G. A., Robins, R. W., Canny, J. (2001). Effects of communication medium on interpersonal perceptions: Don’t hang up on the telephone yet! Proceedings from the Group’01 conference of the Association for Computing Machinery (Boulder, CO: Sept 30-Oct 3, 2001).
- Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, Connell, J. B., K., L., & Ellis, S. J. (2003). Factors affecting the success of telework: A collection of case studies. Proceedings from the International Conference on Advances in the Internet, Processing, Systems, and Interdisciplinary Research, (Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: October 4 – 11, 2003).