Virtual teams: how to successfully work with people you have never met
Teamwork is something that a business needs to succeed. So how is it possible to build a growing brand and business with a virtual team? How do you flip the traditional business model into a virtual business model without losing the relationships?
Well – I am so glad you asked. OK – so you didn’t exactly ask – but I bet you are wondering how the heck I have built my virtual team of amazing employees to think, act, and work exactly how my brand operates without having them in the same room. Yes, I even hired one employee without having seen her or met her in person. Yet she is amazing. And no – micro managing is not the answer (thank god).
“To me – a team is a group of people who are aligned to the same goals. Who are driven to achieve the same results. Location – well that is not relevant to me. Skills, attitude, drive and a sense of ownership, pride and responsibility is what I look for in my team.”
What is relevant is that every single person on the team knows why they are there, has clear direction of their role and tasks, has the tools required to steer them in the right direction in the easiest possible way, and has full backing and support by everyone else in the team.
“Nobody in my team is more important than another team member. We all have different skill sets – but it is clear that my business would not function efficiently with just me at the helm.”
Sure, I steer the ship – so I guess you could call me the Captain if you wanted to give me a fancy title. But I have two amazing first officers – who, without them, the ship would easily veer off course.
My two employees work a combined total of 4 hours away from my home office and a distance of over 3 hours between each other. They have never met, and people are amazed that it seems three completely separate people can form one big brand in such a cohesive and streamlined way.
So what are my secrets to hiring a cohesive virtual team that will build your business for success?
1.Hire based on culture and attitude. When I was hiring for both positions in my business, I took a rather different recruitment approach. I didn’t open a single resume unless their cover letter and email met my “culture and personality” criteria. You see, I can teach skills, I can teach how to use software, I can teach how to file my emails in perfectly crafted folders. What I can’t teach – is attitude, love for the role, willingness to be part of a crazy startup and being proactive. I need people who think like me (but with their own edge) so that my brand remains consistent.
2. Systems are worth the investment. I knew that for me to hire remote workers around various corners of the state, I needed to have the systems setup in my business to accommodate this way of working. We use Slack for internal communication, we use Dropbox to share files, we use Skype and Zoom for conference calls and we use cloud accounting programs to do our client work. Working remotely means we never waste time having meetings that could have been resolved in a quicker, easier format.
3. Trust is essential. When hiring – there is no point continually looking over your chosen candidates shoulder. You have hired them because you think they can do the job, so just bloody let them do the job or prove you wrong. But watching them like a hawk only shows your lack of trust, and that is no way to start a working relationship. With remote staff, great systems, checklists, tasks, to do lists, procedures and client notes should act as a guide, and prevents you becoming the “stalker boss”. You need to trust them from Day 1, and hopefully this builds as your working relationship continues. Sure, you need to monitor performance, but this is different to stalking their day to day productivity.
4. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Corny, but keeping your teams happy is essential. For remote staff, this is much more of a challenge than if you sit in the same room with employees every day. Harder – but not impossible. I check in with my staff every day via Slack, I ensure I ask them how we are going at deadline times, I check in with other commitments such as school holidays, I involve them in team building days, I ask them if there is any training they require or things they needs to do their job in an easier way. I treat them like they are in the room – and more importantly I treat them how I would want to be treated. Location – irrelevant.
5. Stop cringing and start delegating. As a total control freak, delegation does not come easy to me. But what is the point in hiring an amazing employee, if you don’t delegate work to them. Let’s face it – we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Hire to cover your weaknesses and have the balls to delegate tasks. Delegation should not increase your workload. If done correctly, it should free up your time to spend on things that you want to do, the things you excel at – and if done brilliantly, it should free up your time to grow your business. Now that is worth its weight in gold.
So our virtual team in based in Keilor Park, Wantirna and Wodonga. All three of us have actually never met IRL (in real life). We haven’t even had a group Skype session to check each other out. Does that matter? Does that effect our work? Does that effect our client relationships? HELL NO.