Before I started writing this post I did a quick Google search for a definition of the word ‘virtual’. This is what I found: “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition”.
Or, in computing terms: “Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”.
Now as you know, it’s not software that makes me exist or even appear to do so for that matter.
But if that’s the case, is virtual assistant really the most appropriate title for what I do?
The answer is yes because there’s a further definition that states: “Carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network”.
I’m definitely accessed over a network, so I won’t look to change my job title for the time being.
Despite being a virtual assistant though, I’m not automatically equipped to deal with virtual teams and all of the challenges they bring. Okay, so the word ‘challenges’ may imply that they cause me serious problems and the reality is that that’s not the case.
However, having said that, managing a virtual team of people ultimately takes meticulous organisation and governance. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of my top five tips for managing a virtual team.
1. Be easily contactable
This is, without a doubt, the most important factor for ensuring that your virtual team ‘works’. Your team members need to be able to contact you throughout the working day and not worry that they’re going to disturb you.
As you know, I’m based in France. But did you know that some of my team members are located as far away as the Philippines? That’s why I have to ensure that I am on-hand to deal with their queries in an efficient and effective manner.
2. Allow your team members to be honest
Sound bizarre? I’ve found that liaising with my team on an informal basis has brought great results. After all, we’re all human beings and sometimes people just need to converse on a level.
Therefore if someone in your team has something to say, then listen. Even if it’s not strictly relevant, the positive effect it will have on your relationship can be priceless.
3. Be flexible
My team are great. They seldom let me down and I’m thankful for that. However, there are obviously times when they are unable to deliver what I need of them. The key in these situations though is to be flexible and understand their situation.
Of course, if you’ve got a team member who regularly lets you down then perhaps you need to look for someone else but in the majority of cases being understanding is sufficiently adequate.
4. Don’t put yourself at risk
My clients have come to rely on my meticulous nature and attention to detail. At the end of the day, that’s why they hire me again and again.
But if I’m relying on other individuals, how can I be sure that I won’t let my clients down? The answer is by giving myself enough time to allow for their potential delays.
For example, if I have a client deadline that is on a Friday, I’ll ask one of my team members to get me the necessary work by Wednesday at the latest. This allows me enough time to do check everything over, add my magic and get it to the client on time.
5. Set realistic goals
With many of my team working on a freelance basis, I appreciate that sometimes I have to be reasonable with my demands (tasks). They inevitably have other clients who they need to deliver work for and so I know that I can’t expect them to be available for my needs at the drop of a hat.
Therefore, I always make sure that I set realistic deadlines and don’t expect my team members to produce something in the blink of an eye. Wherever possible I try to distribute work evenly and ensure that each team member has an equal amount of work to focus on.