5 Tips: How to Manage Virtual Teams
February 1, 2014
With advancements in technology, responsibilities for marketing to more than one region or country increasing, and companies offering the ability to work virtually from anywhere, the days of an entire marketing team working in the same office are over. How can today's marketing manager strategically oversee a virtual team spread out across multiple time zones? I like to combine old-school best practices with new-school technologies to help my distributed team achieve common goals, support one another, and have fun in the process. Here are a few of my favorites.
- New School: Enterprise Social Networking. ESN can bring your team closer. Lots of different ESN options are out there, like Yammer, Convo, and Moxie. At IMAGINiT, we use Salesforce and take advantage of the built-in Chatter platform. We create an alias visible only to our marketing team and post about projects on which we are currently working. This keeps everyone on the same page and encourages people to comment on or like posts from others in the group. We encourage sharing industry best practices and helpful articles. Chatter also provides a social platform for us to share photos, which helps the team feel more like a unit — even though time and distance separate us.
- Old School: Top 10 Goal Setting. Our company uses the "Top 10 Goals" method — a new twist on an old-school theme. The CEO sets the corporate Top 10 Goals with the executive team, and then the executives establish their own Top 10 Goals, ensuring that they contribute to those of corporate. When developing our marketing goals, I ask the team to submit ideas. I look for consistencies and trends to see if I can lump ideas into broader strategic categories. From this, I develop the marketing Top 10 Goals, which are then vetted by the C-suite. When presenting these goals to my team, I make it a priority to show how each one can contribute to our success.
- New School: Online Meetings. We hold bimonthly online meetings using Webex or Microsoft Lync. Having everyone come to the table with something to share is the format that works best. It could be a significant program they are working on, a phenomenal success metric they would like to share, or questions they have about adjusting an underperforming campaign. Keep people alert by asking questions and linking the answer to what another person on the team is doing.
- New School: IM-ing. Our team relies on instant messaging (IM) to communicate quickly with one another as well as with other individuals within the company. IM is an easy way to ask a question, get feedback, or provide behind-the-scenes support when a team member on a call doesn't know the answer to a question. We also use it for sideline dialogues about a topic discussed on a call. If the call is about a new product launch, I often find myself IM-ing a team member to point out the hot feature that will resonate well with the audience or ask if we could get a beta customer to give us a quote for the press release, etc. IM has replaced longer, harder-to-schedule calls and slower response emails.
- Old School: Annual Face-to-Face Meetings. Despite all the technology available today, in-person meetings are still the most precious and important of all communications. Unfortunately, with budget reductions and travel costs, these meetings are hard to get approved. I try to bring the team together once a year and take advantage of every minute. The most successful team meetings are those that build a sense of camaraderie, motivate people to keep up the good work, instill new habits, and teach new skills. They should include a healthy mix of hard work, up-front preparation, and a dose of fun. Ensure each team member presents one topic to guarantee the same level of contribution. Ideas for fun include taking the Meyers-Briggs assessment and sharing the results during dinner, going on a geocaching expedition, or not talking about work over drinks.
"5 Tips: How to Manage Virtual Teams." ANA Magazine. Winter 2014.
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