It is much more difficult to develop close, friendly and efficient relationships with members of a virtual team than it is with people who work in the same office as you.
It is, however, really essential that the Global Virtual Leader works doubly hard to develop these relationships across the team as without these solid relationships it is almost impossible to build trust.
There are several reasons why it may prove difficult to develop close relationships across global teams, such as
Lack of face-to face time
This is the single biggest problem and the most difficult to overcome. When you don’t meet people, you have fewer chances to understand the personality of each team member and adapt your approach to them accordingly.
Therefore, when those rare face-to-face sessions do take place, don’t waste them. Do not simply replicate what you do in a remote meeting at a face-to-face meeting. Use this time to promote a better understanding of each other and the collaborative process.
Be positive in these situations – focus on successes rather than failures and try to ensure that the time spent together is fun and memorable. Don’t be afraid of devoting some valuable time for ‘getting to know each other better’ sessions.
Lack of Social Communication
Research shows that the most successful virtual teams know each other very well. Team members are friendly and concerned about each other. The role of the Global Virtual Leader is to promote an atmosphere which encourages team members to take the time to get to know each other – this is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is an essential!
Start this process by ensuring that you know as much about virtual team members in a remote location as you do about colleagues in the same office. Take the time to find out about their hobbies, likes and dislikes, weekend activities etc.
Call them when they come back from vacation to find out how it went, for example.
Of course you shouldn’t use this type of interaction as a substitute for making progress on tasks – it should happen as a matter of course and at the same time as ‘business as usual’.
Remember that many cultures place enormous emphasis on the development of relationships as a key to doing successful business.