A friend of mine recently asked what advice I would give to a virtual team. Here is, in essence, my response:
One of the things about virtual teams that some people do not realize is that they have a lot in common with f2f teams. All those problems that in person groups have, like motivation, direction, goals, lack of leadership, etc., are present in virtual groups only they tend to cause a lot more problems. What could be a simple annoyance in a physical setting can derail an entire online project. Because of this, it is important to confront problems early and honestly so that they do not fester.
Group dynamics are magnified once you move them to a virtual setting. In order for a group to work, you need to be a team, work like a team, and communicate like a team. Feeling like a team and fostering this atmosphere is important to the success of a virtual team. Things that seem silly, like making a name for your team or using a lexicon that is unique to your group, create a team atmosphere. Getting the members to feel like a team actually can contribute to the work ethic of the team because people feel like they belong to something and thus they will be more invested.
Regular interactions help people feel like they know their team members and are then less likely to let them down. It seems like common sense that if everyone is doing their business the business will get done faster, better. People know this and yet it does not always work out quite like that. Everyone has been on a team, virtual or physical, that failed miserably because the team did not do the work expected of them.
My last bit of advice dealt with deadlines. As with dynamics, deadlines also loom larger in a virtual setting. It is easier to ignore things that are not physically before you so it is important that goals be set early. Team members or the team leader then has to hold the members accountable for the agreed upon end goals. Periodic check-ins and group chats can help foster team relationships and help team members keep to their deadlines.
–Jane, likes virtual teams