How to Virtually Build High-Performing Teams: Five Areas to Consider
In the face of ongoing change and an unpredictable future, executives globally are asking themselves, “What are the skills required to unlock the performance of our teams in a new and virtual world? What role does technology play?”
Strategies that were successful in the past may not work in the new business environment that we face.
One thing is certain: sustaining competitive advantage will not come from technology alone. It will require people: leadership, agility, adaptability, compassion, and ingenuity will set the most successful organizations apart. State-of-the-art technology cannot successfully respond to a crisis without these additional, people-based components.
Teams inside organizations that figure out how to leverage technology alongside an effective management style and leadership will come out winners.
The good news is that we now have more technology and information than we have ever had, indicating an opportunity to build understanding in key strategic areas and adapt to new ways of working.
The challenge is that this value is trapped in old organizational cultures and ways of working designed for a different age. As the new, virtual work environment gains traction, traditional business methods will be challenged to create the levels of empowerment, delegation, trust, and empathy that will define future success.
At see6, we have found 5 areas that organizations must address to build smarter virtual teams — those that are able to continuously adapt to a changing business environment and unlock the collective intelligence of themselves and their organizations.
For smarter virtual teams, businesses must have:
1. The ability to align to what’s important
Smart teams are effective at acknowledging the critical underlying factors that will contribute to the team’s success, and aligning to what they want to understand better. This isn’t the task-oriented mindset of setting goals and assigning responsibilities; instead, this alignment requires articulating clear and concise intelligence requirements.
For example, in a medical devices organization, a team may focus on improving medical equipment reprocessing — OR the team can align on the larger goal of improving clinician/patient trust dynamics through a variety of channels including medical equipment reprocessing.
A retailer may seek to increase sales — OR the team can align on strengthening customer relationships and loyalty using in-store technology and as a result, increase sales.
A financial services company may seek to improve cash flow — OR the team can seek to better understand underlying reasons for late payments , influencing cash flow risk or future product innovations.
At the core of this alignment discussion is to clarify the specific issues that need to be untangled for a deeper understanding, and then check for alignment across the team.
RESULT: Engaged team members.
2. The ability to include all team members in discussions
Time and again through business simulations and discussions with our clients, we found that teams struggle to formulate the right questions to ask in key areas. Asking better questions is a team sport and a hard-edged skill; but it is one that can be learned. Determining the right question to ask — and the right person to ask them of — requires team members to step outside of their own experience and effectively capture alternative perspectives from the team. Smart teams recognize this, and work to build the skills that help to unlock diverse perspectives and alternative views. A simple start here could be against a single business area — articulating a hypothesis and following up with a debate around supporting assumptions.
There is no escaping the fact that ‘inclusion’ is more difficult in a virtual setting. In a traditional, face-to-face office setting, meetings and discussions can spring up more spontaneously; whereas in a virtual setting, every communication is far more intentional. The teams that recognize this, and adjust their priorities and methods of communication to ensure that people relevant to the discussion — either in asking or answering questions — are included from the start.
RESULT: Increased innovation and agility
3. The ability to challenge the status quo
Smart teams are able to build trust and shift focus from the ‘leader’ to the team. At see6, we have found that groupthink is a huge constraint to unlocking performance of virtual teams. Even when the HiPPO (highest paid person in the office) has a strongly held belief against a certain method or strategy, smart teams are comfortable with challenging these beliefs in a structured way. The change required here is for the leader to shift from ‘follow me up the mountain’ leadership to acting as a facilitator for discussion, leveraging their experience to further the team’s alignment, skills and abilities.
RESULT: Creating an environment for adaptability
4. The ability to maintain a fast decision-making tempo
Smart teams can effectively and confidently pivot towards a decision and efficiently allocate resources. This agility allows a team to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the business environment — making faster, smarter, better decisions and turning agility to advantage. Here, smarter teams strive for clarity on interdependencies and the context of how decisions will impact others, providing the team the ability to mitigate risk.
RESULT: Fast-moving and effective decision-making
5. The ability to break silos
Because a smart virtual team has prioritized skills that improve communication and understanding, as well as seeing the big picture, smart teams translate their insights to other teams where they know it can add value. In a virtual setting it can sometimes be too easy to report insights ‘upwards’ to management without considering horizontal interdependencies, especially in a virtual environment. Smart teams have an increased situational awareness that will unlock value that is trapped in team silos — but in a virtual environment, these horizontal interdependencies must be actively prioritized for best outcomes.
RESULT: Finding trapped enterprise value from teams
In interviews with over 50 executives, we asked them their opinion of the distinctive mindset shift that must occur to unlock value and create smarter teams. In the course of these interviews, it became clear that the gap between laggards and smart teams sat within the culture of the organization and was driven by leadership:
- Focus on executing the plan alone
- Asks for data reports to support pre ordained decision making
- Executive has authority
- Final decision making with gut
- Silo mentality
- Focus on understanding key business areas better
- Builds a data questioning skill
- Empower the team
- Data driven decision making throughout
- Unlock collective intelligence
High-performing teams are the cornerstone of a successful operation, helping businesses to respond to changes with agility and maintain an advantage in a competitive environment. However, building a high-performing team has been complicated by the widespread adoption of remote work, which has challenged traditional assumptions about what high-performing teams look like, and how to create and support them.
If you’d like to understand how you can virtually build high performing teams in your organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.