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Building a successful eTeamon 5 July 2015Posted by Jacqui Hogan
Finding people with the right experience and skills can be difficult in our increasingly diffuse, knowledge-based economy. With the advent of the Internet and fast communications links, you now have access to select from a much wider pool of talent, and the means to incorporate a more diverse set of people into your remote team or eTeam, but still the problem remains of how to get them working as a team.
In a perfect world, we would start with a blank piece of paper, decide what skills we need and then select the perfect match of people from our global talent pool. Voila! The perfect eTeam is put together and off you go. We all know, however, that this just does not happen in practice. You may inherit some people; some may volunteer (suitable or not); and some may be ‘volunteered’ (suitable or not.) Even then you may have to recruit from a potentially vast pool of people you know little about to fill in any gaps.
Types of eTeams
It’s worth identifying the different types of eTeams you may have:
- In-house (within a single organisation)
- between members of different organisations
- between independents such as consultants, contractors, freelancers
- any combination of the above
Some of these, particularly those where the eTeam is unable to meet as a whole team, meets infrequently or cannot meet face-to-face at all, will present more of a challenge.
Agree common goals
All eTeams need to ensure that all participants are working towards a common goal, but will have their own interpretation of the ‘goals’ and their own reason for wanting to be involved.
This is a challenge in any team, but especially so in eTeams. Why? Because you may never have met other members of the team, so you will not have had the opportunity to gather information that only comes with meeting face to face. The little nuances of behaviour and body language that enable familiarity and trust can be lacking. So, instead of taking commitment for granted you have to ask the questions: “How much are you committed? What else are you committed to?” Everyone must have an agreed level of common commitment. If you do not know – ask!
Goals also need to be flexible as requirements change. A great danger in an eTeam is that the goal ‘drifts’ and not all participants recognise the drift in the same way or at the same time. Do not assume congruence, but recheck and confirm or update your goal frequently.
Build the right attitude
Everyone must be willing to participate, share ideas and be proactive in their commitments. A sense of accountability between eTeam members is necessary to be successful.
You will have noticed that this list does not include any additional technical skills. Although these are important, they can generally be learned, although you will need to allow for proper training.
The right attitude of sharing and listening is much harder, and takes considerable time to learn – time that in all likelihood you do not fully have at your disposal. If you do not have these attributes amongst your team, you will need to build the additional time into your project, as well as take steps to ensure they are being continually reinforced – just as you would in an office based local team!
Encourage awareness of differing work cultures
Many of our preferred working experiences are based on working with like-minded people; it is not called a ‘comfort zone’ for nothing! We know what they think, because they think like we do. We can use this knowledge to predict what they will do in a wide range of circumstances, and this leads us to make assumptions about how they will act. It is worth pausing for a moment and considering the nature of this preference – is it really a coincidence that we so often end up with people who think like us?
Remote working gives us the opportunity, and the challenge, to work with people who are less predictable. Not in a sinister sense, in that they might unexpectedly start chasing us round the office with a meat cleaver!
eTeam members should be encouraged to look for common values, and accept, understand and appreciate differences. Shared values provide the emotional glue that cements the team and every effort should be made to reference, reiterate and reinforce these. Allow people the equivalent of ‘coffee cooler’ time online to help with this.
It is often difficult for others to tell whether you are present but not paying attention. After all, they cannot see what you are actually doing – and vice versa. In the same way as you should be present and attending in a face-to-face meeting, you should do the same with any interactive or synchronous communication as well.
When there is little chance of bumping into your eTeam members in the office, it is important to be present when meetings are arranged in the global village. Also showing as present when you are online, helps colleagues find each other on the off chance and see if they are available to take part in dialogue. It is very difficult to check someone’s availability when you cannot see them and, the more global your group, the more difficult (and important) it is to be present for meetings, and to enable the random chance conversations that can be game changers.
Finally, always respond to a remote request, even if it is just to say ‘I got your request, but can’t respond until Thursday’.
Glasscubes is a UK based collaboration tool vendor that supports a full range of eTeam and remote working. Find out more about how they can help you manage your eTeams more effectively by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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