As the world continues to alter its response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the way in which associations operate has changed tremendously. Throughout the various changes, one thing has remained the same, the emergence of and importance of the virtual workplace. Seeing as many organizations are choosing to transfer their workplaces and meeting places to a virtual platform part time, full time, and in some cases indefinitely, the successful implementation of the virtual workplace is imperative.
For association boards with directors across the country, it is important to maintain functionality in virtual settings. Communication is key, so fostering an environment where long-distance communication is seamlessly carried out is crucial to the success of association boards. Even after it is safe to meet in-person, your team will need to maintain healthy virtual communication to ensure that your board or committee is completing all the work that keeps your association running for its members.
In large part, the success of the virtual workplace depends on the success of your virtual team. For that reason, here are four tips for creating successful virtual teams so that your association board of directors can thrive.
Organize Online Meetings Regularly
Organizing online board or committee meetings regularly can help connect geographically dispersed colleagues, build connections, and establish effective communication. For associations, regular board meetings must continue through the pandemic, and so meeting online is a necessity. Miscommunication can frequently occur when communicating through email and various mediums as it can be hard to decipher tone and micro expressions which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
Face to face meetings help foster better working relationships among directors and allow people much needed interaction in pandemic life. Talking face to face can give some much-needed human connection to board members working remotely who rely on human connection for motivation. Additionally, face to face meetings can act as a catalyst for board members to stay on track especially those whose roles are independent.
Read Building Trust Virtually at the Board Level to learn more.
Establish a Shared Identity
According to Daniel Weinzveg, Shared Identity is arguably the most important aspect of transforming a group of individuals into a cohesive, focused team. Being apart of an association is a way of joining together in shared identity. Since many people affiliate a large part of their identity with their work, creating a shared identity is a necessary step of ensuring a successful virtual team. Using a virtual platform allows you to create a virtual community where team members can feel connected and give them a sense of purpose and belonging. The Remote Company Blog says that using language that signifies that you are all apart of the same team such as “we,” “us,” and “ours” can go a long way in creating the cohesion and “we-ness” necessary to feel part of a team.
Having a common space for colleagues and board members to gather and communicate can also be vital in creating a sense of belonging, community, and by extension, a shared identity. Many apps including Microsoft Teams are great tools for creating this ‘virtual community’ and highlight the team identity. The features allow members to connect in real time and the chat functions can allow remote employees an area for those ‘water cooler’ moments, synonymous with an in-person board meeting. These features allow a shared identity to exist that was previously thought to only exist in a traditional, in-person environment.
Provide Team Members with the Right Equipment
Since the virtual team exists on a virtual platform, employees must have access to the platform to be part of the team. This is where the importance of the right equipment comes into play. Selecting the best technologies with the most features shouldn’t be the focus instead, functionality should be the most important factor when evaluating the technological needs of the team.
To illustrate, the two questions that should be asked are “Does it serve the clear objective of keeping your disbursed board connected and aligned?” and “What products/features are needed to keep the workflow uninterrupted and productive?” The answer to these questions will look different from association to association, and can combine a variety of technologies, apps, and equipment to meet their needs. If every member of the team has the tools they need to perform well, a major hurdle in the success of a virtual team has been overcome.
Teams consist of separate parts working together towards a common goal. One of the biggest obstacles to creating a successful virtual team is the delegation of tasks. Effective delegation can be done in three ways. First, it is crucial that every member of the team understands their individual role and the responsibilities of that role. When new directors are brought onto your board, it is important they understand the full scope of their responsibilities and what they must individually bring to the team. Second, establish clear expectations and timelines for tasks.
There are many different platforms in existence today that allow for the collaboration of tasks and, most importantly, where clear timelines for tasks can be placed. Third, match the communication tool to the task. In this case, use the communication medium that is appropriate for the task at hand. Some cases, a phone call will be necessary rather than an instant message or email. This can help make sure everyone is on the same page with the task at hand and is essential for proper delegation of tasks.
For more on delegating, read my colleague’s article, Effective Delegation for Association Leaders.