Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 11/30/15 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.
Remember when management meant working with everyone in the same building and working the same schedule?
In fact, I’ve never worked a job where I wasn’t part of a virtual team. Over the years, I’ve moved my way up the entrepreneurial ladder – from working for $0.002 per word (yes, that’s $1 per 500 words) to managing a team of 11 in a 6-figure content agency.
It’s a dream come true, yet unlike sleeping dreams, it didn’t happen in one night.
And I’m still learning every day.
Many entrepreneurs out there, however, haven’t spent their entire careers working for or running virtual teams. Maybe it’s an entirely new concept that you’re still struggling with.
This article may not solve all your problems, but I hope it sets you on the right path.
You see, at the end of the day, managing is about one thing: people.
It doesn’t matter if they’re in the same room as you or across the world, you’re still dealing with unique people that have their own set of dreams, struggles and goals.
In today’s post, I’m going to outline some practical tips for managing your virtual team. Let’s get started, shall we?
This concept is a pretty big change for those shifting into the digital realm. And it’s also one of the most important aspects of bringing someone onto your virtual team.
When you’re working with freelancers, this is even more important.
As an example, I recently brought on four new writers to help me out with a huge project my team is tackling the next few months.
It’s an exciting time, and I was stoked to be able to give some steady work to a few freelancers.
Now, I could have said, “I’m going to hire you for 11 articles each week.” Instead, I gave each of the prospective writers a week’s worth of articles as a trial project.
You know what happened? Two of them got the articles to me on time, one turned everything in late without any communication, and I still haven’t heard from the last one.
Testing the waters with trial projects shows you how the new person works well with your virtual team. Or in the case of the last writer – how they don’t.
The traditional business environment is highly structured. Perhaps that’s why I never thought I’d fit in.
Not much for others structuring my day. *control issues…*
A virtual environment definitely retains structure, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of telling people when, where and how to show up for work, you’ll provide guidelines on efficiency, effectiveness and workflow.
Remote workers manage their time and workload independently.
If you’re actually hiring them as an employee, you’ll have a bit more control. However, if you’re working with independent contractors, it may actually be against the law for you to demand certain things.
I like what Hubstaff has to say about their virtual team:
“We stay off their backs, we allow them the freedom of getting their jobs done the way they choose. That freedom goes a long way in managing virtual teams and for team member happiness.”
Personally, I’m a huge proponent of enabling people to be productive through their own internal drive. And if you give them the tools, encouragement and freedom, that can definitely happen.
Admittedly, I don’t have this perfected.
But one of my recent hires did just tell me, “Man, this is the most comprehensive and easy onboarding I’ve ever seen.”
I hate to tell her, it’s completely selfish. You see, the more effectively you onboard your team, the less money you spend on them having to learn the ropes.
Answering questions all day can eat away your time. So, if you can answer most of those questions up front, you’ll have saved yourself a ton of time.
The read-worthy Zendesk ebook, How to Successfully Build and Manage a Virtual Team, puts an interesting spin on onboarding when dealing with virtual teams:
“Each member of a virtual team is essentially the sole inhabitant of an island. The more resources they have, the better. They are their own first line of defense, and if the team is well equipped from the get-go, their survival (read: success) is almost assured.”
My onboarding process currently includes the following assets:
Setting up a good process helps new team members start off on the right foot. And if they do that, they’ll be more likely to stick around than an unprepared employee.
Staying around in a job that you don’t feel confident doing is never ideal, but when it’s as part of a virtual team it can be disastrous.
The wrong employee with too little training and too much access can cause some serious damage.