Top Teaming: Unraveling the Virtual Team

Johanna and Karen are members of a global OD team comprised of smart people from pedigreed backgrounds and strong corporate experience.  They are both highly interdependent and highly matrixed as they, and the other 8 members of their “team” support various businesses across a fast-changing, highly pressured global organization.  They rely deeply on one another.

The only problem is, they actually only meet in person twice a year.  They are a new and increasing breed of team – a “virtual team” that works cross-culturally, globally, and intensively, without the high touch, face-to-face time that usually is required for a real team to develop into what we call a Top Team.

Many of us are struggling to find ways of developing teams such as this.  Think of some of their issues:

  • They operate across China, Europe, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Rio — time zones that span 12-14 hours.  When do they talk?
  • While a high-technology firm, travel requirements and historic business models force most connections to be by conference call and webinar.  Video and ‘telepresence’ occurs, but is not the norm.
  • They meet as a team twice a year together, with additional connections as people travel across regions.
  • They are under enormous pressure to be seen within the organization as an aligned and highly functioning team.
  • And the list goes on….

In our research on Top Teaming, we have come to believe that “Relational Intelligence (RI)” – people coming to know one another and building the trust necessary to grow real Collective Intelligence (CI) is a foundation for Top Teams who can succeed in the “Now, the New, and the Next.”  But how does that work when smart and pressured people rarely get together, and when they do, have meetings that are jam packed with agenda items and jet lag?

This is an important area for us, who consult with teams or serve on teams to both understand and improve.  So let me pose some questions for us as a community of learners to discuss over time:

?         What are the keys to building Virtual Teams?

?         What are the 3-4 most critical elements for the team and their leaders to consider?

?         What is the best method of, and cadence for communication and relationship building?

?         What must organizations provide for key teams to be fully successful?

?         What are the key questions we must address and resolve?

Let’s create a dialogue here that will allow us to raise the bar of Virtual Teams into Top Teams.  Please share your ideas and experience.

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