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In today’s global and distributed business economy, virtual teams are becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Whether you’re managing a geographically dispersed workforce or you’re just getting started with part-time virtual assistants scattered across the globe, learning to manage and communicate with virtual teams is essential to your business growth and success.

First, let’s look at some fundamentals that are important to understand for all teamwork — virtual or in person.

Goals vs. objectives

In order to meet a goal — the desired end result — the team must complete many tasks or objectives. Well-organized teams need to detail both. At the beginning stages of team formation, state what each person brings to the team and their responsibilities. Stress the importance of interdependence — that in order for the team to succeed, each individual needs to play their role. This can also be a time to establish guidelines for team behavior, norms and any necessary rules. In leading and managing teams, you want to make sure the roles and purposes for each team member are clear. This is part of being a team leader, delegating responsibility and holding people accountable. Together you outline the tasks or objectives needed to meet the goal and then divide and conquer (or divide, collaborate in smaller groups and conquer, if applicable).

Avoid information hoarding

Don’t hoard information! Some people do this out of fear of losing control or because they don’t want to inundate their team with unnecessary information. But if you want your teams to perform well and be motivated to innovate, don’t hold anything back. Good leaders will act as an information hub, where information can flow freely and transparent communication is encouraged. One way to do this is to create a shared file site (Google Docs, Basecamp, Dropbox, etc.) where any and all relevant information can be stored. Title or categorize the documents clearly so information can be easily accessed. Communicate this to your team, so if they want resources or additional intel, they know where to find it. It’s better to put it all there at the outset and give your teams access than to keep it to yourself and end up with a less-than-optimal solution because not all available information was used.

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