Management

How to cultivate a strong and engaging relationship with a virtual team

When you’re working a virtual team, you connect on two levels: professional, and personal. Professional is ironically the easiest to excel at, since you’re likely good at your job. Do solid work, deliver on time, communicate well and give credit where credit is due. The professional aspects of the relationship will fall into place if you’re a team player.

You also need to connect personally with your team. We’re all unique, and bring different strengths to the table. Our interactions can only be strengthened when you let others on your team know what you’re working on personally, as well as professionally. That advice is relevant whether you’re talking about your peers, your manager, or people you directly manage.

Since you’re seldom face-to-face with your team, you must rely on voice, email and chat. It’s important, if possible, to physically meet the people on your team and establish some rapport. It’ll ease future virtual interactions, as you’ll understand the background and personality of the person you’re talking to. Make an effort to get to know each person as an individual. It’ll make the professional encounters that much more effective. Jackson Mahr, one of my former teammates, says it best:

“Personal rapport is critical, and for all the books, tutorials, speaking tours and management consultancies promoting teamwork, I don’t recall this even being mentioned. Yet it’s how we build human relationships, which is the natural basis of loyalty and teamwork. It’s just common sense: a group of people who like each other, who understand each other and have a personal relationship will want to stick together and help each other out to get a problem solved. Feeling this affinity with a manager makes the team so much stronger and, I’m assuming, prevents a blame culture from blossoming.”

I know we’re not all comedians, but humor can go a long way in establishing rapport, too. Have fun with each other. Joking about a shared experience, especially work-related, is a great way to forge a relationship.

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