How Clear is the Purpose for Your Virtual Teams?

How Clear is the Purpose for Your Virtual Teams?
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The WHY Matters
No matter what the task that you undertake, the more motivated you are, the more successful you are likely to be. In the working world, we know that motivation is, in large part, driven by a meaningful sense of purpose, and especially a purpose for your virtual teams. If employees understand and believe in the purpose of their work, the higher their levels of engagement.

Yes, the “why” matters in real terms: less absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved performance.

Today’s Challenge
It has always been a challenge for leaders to imbue their employees with a sense of the importance of the work they do. But in today’s world where so many employees are working virtually, the challenge is even greater. It’s harder for leaders to know their team members personally, harder for employees to interact directly with the customers, and harder to inspire employees virtually.

Unfortunately, there are no tricks or shortcuts.  The same effective teamwork principles apply regardless of whether the team is on site or virtual.  The pain is just quicker to manifest when teams are remote.

Assess the Clarity of Your Team’s Purpose
For both virtual and in person, to keep your team motivated and connected to the meaning of their work and to the rest of the team, you need to know how well your team understands and believes in its fundamental purpose. Certainly, you should be on the lookout for warning signs that their commitment is lagging, but the best way to know is to ask the team directly. Or, if your team struggles to share their thoughts and feelings, try a confidential pulse survey.

It is better to know how much “catch up” you need to do than to continue on a path of increasingly greater distance from the goal of purposeful work.

A Quick Note from the Trenches about Purpose at Work
Not all organizations are purpose-driven.  It is one thing if you are trying to cure cancer or change the world, but some teams just need to better align how work gets done with clearer goals, roles, success metrics, rewards, and behavioral expectations – not exaggerated mission statements that do not ring true regarding why they joined the company or what their work is truly about.

If you are struggling to create purpose for your team, it is fair to ask yourself if you are pushing it too far.

A Few Simple Steps to Create a Clear Purpose for Your Virtual Teams
As a leader, you can begin to build a sense of team purpose, connections, and success with a few simple steps:

  1. Define High Performance
    Most teams and jobs have a long list of roles and responsibilities.  The truth, however, is that all of those items are not of equal importance or value to the company, your team, or to the individuals. 

    Do yourself a favor and define what high performance looks like at the team and individual levels by agreeing on the one or two things that matter most.  Then design clear goals and accountabilities, roles, and success metrics that align with what you are trying to accomplish for the people AND the business.

    Our organizational alignment research found that this level of strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams.  Does everyone know what constitutes undisputed high performance at the team and individual levels?
  2. Celebrate Successes
    Recognize both collective wins and individual performance. Be specific. Show that each team member’s contributions matter and how they tie into both team and organizational success. When individuals are recognized for superior effort, they feel that they are making a difference and their level of engagement increases.
  3. Make It Emotional
    Tell personal stories that help the team connect to the meaning of their work in an emotional way. How are they impacting the community, customers, maybe even society as a whole?

    When you can tell a story that is authentic and true, employees are led beyond the black-and-white data to a belief that what they do provides value beyond simple business success.
  4. Know Your Team
    Make an effort to get to know your team members on a personal basis. What do they enjoy and value both at work and off? Get a sense of what motivates them and where their strengths lie so you can help them find even more fulfilling jobs to do and identify areas in which they can grow.

    Remember that, as a leader, your success depends upon the success of your team.  It is well worth the effort to invest in improving your team’s confidence, competence, and connectedness.

The Bottom Line
Despite the difficulty of connecting with your remote team and defining a purpose that speaks to each member, it is your job as team leader to do so. You know it matters regardless of if the team is in the office or remotely spread across the globe.

To learn more about how to create a clear purpose for your virtual teams, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals

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