Big Picture Visibility in Global Virtual Teams

Clare McNamara and Monica Garcia-Romero

pidgeon-view-881120-mIn our October 2013 workshop with senior global professionals at the WIN Conference in Prague, we explored how to embrace the power of leading global virtual teams. Our theme ‘From Herding Cats to Flying with Geese’ reflected the difficulties of ensuring our virtual colleagues work together cohesively. We would rather be in a place where, like the geese, our teams position themselves so that the work gets done efficiently and with ease, and people look out for each other and share the load accordingly.  We shared how to build relationships,  how to manage 24/7 pressure and also the topic of this blog, how to create big picture visibility.

So how can we get our team members to understand and feel truly engaged in the big picture when we don’t have them together in one place? How can give them our privileged bird’s eye view?

Here are some of the insights our participants shared:

  • Get maximum involvement in creating team goals.  People who have contributed to the decision-making process are much more likely to take ownership of decisions and feel motivated to support them. Coordinating all the input will be more of an effort if you are working across time-zones and cultures, but it will be worth the pay-off. People do not necessarily resist change, it is being changed that is the problem.
  • Help people to see that their work is integral to the output of the whole team. Clearly you would want someone who packs parachutes, for example, to understand that their job is critical to the safety of a pilot. In the same way it is important to help every global team member, however junior, to feel that what they do matters and is appreciated. Present them with small tokens of gratitude such as awards, nominations for ‘top performer of the month’ at your boss’s virtual coffee talk, invite them to present at your boss’s staff meeting. Be creative about how you communicate the shared vision. Think about using video, pictures, graphs and stories to get the message across and make it compelling and attractive.
  • Pay attention to keeping the big picture alive. If you are all in one office it is easier to keep everyone in the loop. Without regular updates virtual colleagues will make assumptions and communication starts to unravel. Make a point of linking any task reviews to the team goal. Ask open-ended questions to ensure people continue to see the connection between what they do and what the organisation is trying to do. Attune to those who appear to be reluctant to share their opinions: taking culture into consideration, find ways to create an environment where everybody’s opinion is valued and expected, and draw out what people truly feel.
  • Externalise your thinking so that people understand why decisions have been made: describe the situation, say why it is important, articulate ‘what’s my thinking’ and make a request if appropriate. This is crucial when working virtually as in the absence of information people will create their own stories and rationale and you may struggle to keep them on board.
  • Encourage team members to work collaboratively in pairs or small groups. As we highlighted in our blog on how to build relationships, the better people know each other on a personal level the more willing they are to share ideas and understand each others’ contribution and ultimately how everybody’s effort knits together. Job rotations are also a great way of helping people to see challenges and goals from a different perspective.

See previous blog for insights into the two other big questions we explored: How to Build Relationships in Global Virtual Teams and Managing 24/7 Pressure in Global Virtual Teams

© Global Team Coaches 2014


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