Most of us consider ourselves above-average team players.
Of course, mathematically speaking, that’s impossible. We can’t all be above average. *Shrug* Hey, who’s counting.
But what about ONLINE teamwork specifically?
That probably gets a lot more of us scratching our heads.
And this makes sense.
In school, we learned to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our classmates. In the office, we’re next to each other all day. We know the drill.
But what happens when we take each person of the team and pull them way apart from each other, placing them in different parts of a city, country, or even the world?
We get something called “remote collaboration”. And let me tell you, when things go remote, the rules of the game change in a big way.
Processes get more complex, challenges get amplified, and miscommunication abounds.
Fortunately, there are ways to make remote collaboration work for you.
In fact, with the strategies we teach you in this lesson, I’m confident you can be even more effective working with teams online than you were in-person!
And if you’re hungry for a much more in-depth exploration of this topic, we have just the thing for you at the end of the lesson.
So are you up the challenge? Let’s get into it.
One of the primary differences between in-person teams and remote teams is the nature of communication.
And this isn’t surprising. When you’re working remotely, you aren’t going to “bump into” Fred on the way to the snack room, which means you won’t have a chance to hear about his kid’s first birthday party. It also means you won’t get that quick update on the project you’re both working on.
Believe it or not, when it comes to successful teams, both of those things matter.
Brief, informal conversations with your colleagues about each other’s lives invariably transition to a productive conversation about how a project or collaboration is going. These casual interactions prove to be a surprisingly effective way to keep a pulse on how things are progressing.
And this doesn’t just apply to project updates. All kinds of important information about team dynamics, client relations, and workflow challenges, are shared during unscheduled encounters in an office.
When we work with our team in the same physical space, we do this almost without thinking.
By contrast, when our teamwork shifts online, we need to make a much more deliberate effort to create these kinds of informal interactions. They won’t happen automatically. And that’s a problem because this creates a huge barrier to the free flow of information within a team.
And studies tells us that a team that isn’t sharing information fluidly is not going to be successful in the long run.
So be sure to schedule time in your day to catch up with your teammates over the phone or instant chat. Make it personal and meaningful. You need to maintain that sense of human connectivity.
When you achieve that, the business aspects of your work will weave their way into the conversation organically. The freer the flow of information, both personal and professional, the closer-knit your team will feel, and the more productive your team will be.
Speaking of sharing information, clear communication is a critical component of effective remote teams.
Too often, online collaboration quickly morphs into a chaotic slurry of texts, messy email chains, and ultimately, frustrated, unproductive teammates.
The reason for this is almost always due to opaque communication, where colleagues misunderstand and misinterpret each other.
Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies we can employ to prevent this chaos.
The first is to ensure that, when you interact with teammates through digital channels, be as specific and explicit as you possibly can.
When our communication is limited to words and grainy video, we lose a huge percentage of our communicative power, including tone of voice and body language.
For this reason, you must proactively eliminate ambiguity and leave nothing open to interpretation. Spell out what you mean, clarify any questions you have, and constantly check for comprehension to ensure your teammates fully understand your meaning.
You can also drastically improve the clarity of communication by using an effective project management system and establishing strict SOP, or standard operating protocol, for how your team interacts with each other.
Both a project management system and your SOP will ensure a uniform way of delegating work, completing tasks, and providing feedback. They keep communication organized and ensure everyone on the team is aware of any bottlenecks or potential delays to the timeline.
At this point, you’re probably realizing that there are a lot of moving pieces to effective online teamwork.
Remote teams demand a higher level of discipline and structure than in-person teams. They require airtight project management systems, standardized operating procedures, and a delicate balance between strict communication protocol and organic, humanized interactions.
The strategies we discussed today will go a very long way toward boosting the output of your remote teams.
And that’s important because online teamwork is here to stay.
But we’re really just scratching the surface here. There’s too much of the topic to cover in a short YouTube video.
That’s why Greg and I put together a comprehensive course on Mastering Online Teamwork, Remote Collaboration, and Managing Remote Teams.
In that course, we break down the complexities of online teamwork into compact, bite-sized modules. We provide you with the key ingredients you need to foster tightly-knit, high-performing teams.
Each module is packed with original, battle-tested insights and actionable takeaways.
Ultimately, our goal is to equip you with the tools you need to maximize your remote team’s productivity and output, even when your team is spread across different geographies and time zones.
So if your goal is to develop a professional-caliber of remote collaboration skills, we strongly encourage you to check out our course in the description box below.
And as icing on the cake, these concepts have no expiration date. They will remain relevant throughout your career.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I would love to hear about your experiences with online teamwork. What challenges have you encountered so far? What strategies have helped you overcome those challenges? Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments below.
And, if you loved this lesson, please be sure to let me know. You can give this video a thumb’s up on YouTube and if you haven’t done so already subscribe to join our tribe of Explearners, so you never miss a lesson. If you ring that bell, you’ll get notified about new lessons and our weekly live streams.
Email this video to a friend or coworker who also wants to supercharge their social skills.
While we’re at it, feel free to also share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends as well!
And remember, the writeup of these lessons are always available on our blog at explearning.co/blog.
With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡