How To Manage a Virtual Team Successfully

See how Brent Clayton, owner of Fire Recruitment Australia Successfully Manages a Virtual Team.

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By Brent Clayton

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when running a virtual team is not having the correct systems in place. An effective and harmonious team must be forged together in order to thrive so that when employing other team members, they do not enter into a less than desirable, or broken, system.

If the systems and communication rhythm and strategy being used is broken, or is not productive, adding more team members into this ecosystem will create more stress and issues for the person responsible for the team.

It Starts With You

To start a virtual team that is scalable, you need to have a fundamental understanding of all the moving parts that are required for the team to operate effectively.

Once you have a clear picture of the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual operations required, you can go about auditing these tasks so that they can be allocated appropriately. You want to get to a point where you, as the team leader, owner, or CEO are only completing a high-value task that only you can do OR working on strategy and new opportunities and partnerships for your business

The best example of this from my own businesses, is when I stopped dealing with day to day help desk operations. As we were getting over 100 emails a day, nothing meaningful could get done with that many distractions. When I am working with someone to structure a remote or virtual team, this is the first position I look to fill. Obviously, there is the onboarding process, familiarisation and standard operating procedure (SOP) parameters that must be learned first. However, once you have this piece of the puzzle off your hands, it frees you up to deliver on much higher value activities.

It’s Important To Delegate

When you are working on projects i.e. introducing new products or working on larger projects, you cannot do it all yourself. You need to develop the ability to hand-off the project, or parts of it, to members of your team so that they can execute it.

Providing team members with appropriate context and an understanding of the consequences — good and bad — of getting the task done correctly, is also vital. I have developed and use a two-page document that allows clear and concise communication for this exact purpose, and it works for projects of all sizes.

Once you begin to assemble your team you need to set a communication rhythm so that everyone on the team understands the requirements and preferred mediums of communication. If you are not setting a communication rhythm, you will find yourself at the mercy of your inbox or whatever method your team members use to communicate with you. I currently use a voice call once per day, when needed, to avoid the need to be online and reduce screen time. I find this extremely productive as most of the time we will only require a 10-minute call once per week (on average) to run a significant business.

Task Audits

If you are working with a virtual assistant, you will want to make a list of tasks that need to be done on a daily weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Once you have an exhaustive list you need to sort it into categories.

I have a worksheet available that is used to rank a virtual assistant’s ability to do the job. Here is what the checkboxes look like.

Only You — This is your genius, only you can do these tasks/actions.

Excellence — You are excellent at this and can do it better than anyone.

Competent — You can do these tasks well but could train someone or have them done for you.

Incompetent — You need help to get these tasks done right.

Once you have all your tasks listed in these categories, you will want to list them from least enjoyable to most enjoyable. Once that is done, you will have a thorough and extensive list of tasks and be able to prioritize them, in order to start making instructions for, and delegating them to other team members.

Keep Your Work In Order In One Place

Have a common place to keep all of your instructions, standard operating procedures, products, projects and details live and online, with a rationale that all of your team understands.

You can have the best instructions and details around but, without proper access to this, nobody will be able to find them and you will end up with duplicated work which is not the name of the game.

We use Dropbox for this but there are many to choose from. Google Drive and One Drive are also good options depending on what you are familiar with.

Creating Instructions And Standard Operating Procedures

When you are creating standard operating procedures and instructions it is extremely helpful if you use the same format for all of these.

For example, we use our business letterhead then the scope of the document — as in rationale and aim — followed by the instructions themselves and links to any relevant videos.

Each instruction is saved under a descriptive title so that a simple search will find it in Dropbox or on a YouTube instructions library.

Some Pitfalls To Be Wary Of

When you add a new team member, or Virtual Assistant, try to focus them on just one task — you may have all these ideas busting at the seams to be actioned — but if you fail to give clear and concise instructions, it is a recipe for disaster. See how they go on the initial task, offer guidance, then add on extra tasks.

Create a system so you can identify the most fruitful areas where you and your team spend time. There are endless paths you could lose your focus or worry about what the competition is doing. If you focus on creating something great and ask yourself what is going to further your cause most, then you will attain success. Focusing on the big picture instead of chasing shiny things is a winner, time after time.

The most important thing I have found through running virtual teams, or any team for that matter, is getting the members on board with the vision. Having your team members become part of the vision of your business will be the most valuable thing you can have happen, but this only occurs once you have all the mechanics operating properly.

Ultimately, this will come down to how you treat your team and communicate your purpose.

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

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