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With internet access now ubiquitous, the number of workers joining virtual teams is increasing. These teams take advantage of online tools such as chat, email and file sharing. Not surprisingly, the lack of a physical presence (and thus facial expressions and body language) might cause difficulties in getting tasks done.
According to research, the most effective tactic to have influence in a virtual team is to reduce ambiguity. This means clarifying your requests so they are better understood by other people. This can be achieved through three simple techniques – sharing information, creating accountability, and providing examples.
Sharing information gives you the authority in the eyes of your target and provides them with the details they need to complete the task. While it seems obvious, you may be surprised by how often insufficient information is shared. For example, introverted team members reduce the flow of information, as they are either not willing to ask more questions or they assume that other members already have sufficient details.
Creating accountability makes it clear who is responsible for completing a certain task and/or setting a deadline. Quite often, email is used to explicitly create accountability with a written record of communication between team members that can be referred to at any time by the members involved. Nowadays, there are online platforms that facilitate this communication in other ways as well.
Providing examples is another crucial element in acquiring influence. Showing a sample of the same task completed earlier or giving thorough guidelines can have a tremendous impact on understanding and thus the result. Another particularly useful tool available to modern virtual teams is screen sharing complemented by a conversation. It enables team members to get an idea across and reduce misunderstandings by having direct feedback.
Adding virtual collaboration to your business may create additional headaches. However, if done properly, the benefits can make it more than worthwhile. Not only should great team managers use the right influencing tactics, they should also build trustful relationships between team members, assign specific tasks, set clear deadlines and use several effective communication channels.
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