Setting Clear Team Expectations with Virtual Team Members

By Dummies Press

Part of Virtual Teams For Dummies Cheat Sheet

These tips can set standards for team excellence and provide clarity for your virtual team members, helping you get the absolute best results.

  • Start with a vision of what the best possible outcome looks like for your virtual team. Focus on not just what needs to get done, but how team members will work together to accomplish results and the impact of the results you’re looking for. Can you share a story about it? Is there an analogy that works well to paint a picture of your vision?
  • Decide on how you’ll define performance excellence. Answer the question, “What would success look like?” If you expect high levels of teamwork and collaboration, then describe what those expectations mean to you. Don’t assume your team members already know.
  • Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step to follow. Your goal is to guide, not control. Letting teams and individuals find their own route toward productive outcomes encourages them to use their strengths to their fullest potential. If you try to micromanage on a virtual team, you will fail.
  • Tie the company’s goals to your team or department and to each role. People want to know that their role on your team, whether large or small, makes a difference and supports moving the team and the company forward.
  • Put expectations in writing. Having them in writing provides you with simple documentation so you can refer back to them if there is ever confusion. The document is also a great tool to reset, regroup, and remind team members when things veer off track or when the team members begin to show signs of disengagement.
  • Stay on the sideline. You may be tempted to jump in and save the day when employees are stuck, struggling and not meeting expectations. But if you do, no one learns a thing and your virtual employees will quickly feel disempowered. Always providing the solution can also set up a situation where your team takes a wait-and-see approach instead of taking action. In a virtual environment saving the day every time doesn’t work long term.
  • Give feedback often. Letting team members know whether or not they’re meeting your expectations is always too late to do so during the annual performance review. Rather, schedule informal review time regularly with your virtual team members (weekly, monthly, or quarterly for larger teams) and provide helpful feedback. When you provide consistent feedback throughout the year, your team members see you as a coach who is supportive and interested in helping the team succeed.
  • Ask team members for feedback on how they think they’re doing and how they think you’re doing. The more two-way communication your team has the greater the clarity around the expectations.
  • Give positive reinforcement. Mention the things you like and you’ll get more of it. Recognize the behavior and performance that you want to see continue. Be specific, highlight the impact, and deliver it as close to the positive event as possible.
  • Look in the mirror first. When team members don’t perform as you think they should, ask yourself if you’ve done a great job setting clear expectations and decide what you could have done differently. Then collaborate with your team members to come up with solutions, rather than pointing fingers and laying blame.