Virtue team constitutes of a group of people working independently to fulfill a common purpose, and use the technology to communicate and collaborate. Organizations are increasingly exploiting virtue teams to bring together the best expertise irrespective of where the parties live. Working and managing virtual teams come with many challenges compared to the traditional setup. The challenges arise mainly because the participants cannot meet in a face-to-face, a situation that encourages the social interactions required in building rapport and healthy working relationship. It is particularly not easy to establish trust and communicate effectively when the members of the team come from different cultural and social backgrounds (Malhotra, Majchrzak, & Rosen, 2007). Organizations, leaders, and team members operating in a virtual team should be aware of the options in work design and leadership in such an environment. Additionally, the leadership style and work design should be selected upon consideration of the nature of the task and team characteristics.
The Options for Work Design and Leadership of Virtual Teams
Getting a virtual team to work effectively may require the incorporation of specific options for the work design and management. Some of the options include the clarification of tasks and processes, agreeing on the shared language, and reinforcing social bonds.
Clarification of Tasks and Processes
Business leaders are expected to align the team members based on the goals, duties, and responsibilities. The alignment is complicated when dealing with a virtual team because members are not co-located, making it hard for effective coordination (Aperian Global, 2012). As a result, a leader in such scenario should concentrate on clarifying the tasks and processes. The clarification makes it clear about the work processes and specific individuals who are responsible for each task.
Agreeing On the Shared Language
Virtual teams are likely to draw members from cross-cultural backgrounds, which raise a communication challenge due to language differences. The leadership in collaboration with the team members should come up with a shared language to use while communicating. A team that does not have a common language affects its members because they are unable to generate and exchange ideas in solving the problems in the workplace (Nemiro, 2004). In cases where the members of the team may not have a common language, a translation would be a solution to ensure that every member understands the message and information shared.
Reinforcing Social Bonds
In a virtual team, building a strong social bond is a challenge because the members may not have an opportunity for face-to-face interactions. The leadership has two options in strengthening the social bonds. First, the virtual team meetings should not start from the task-focused point of view. The leader should ensure that at the start of the meetings, the team members could interact and discuss issues in a casual setup (Nemiro, 2004). Secondly, the social media platforms should be created to have the members socialize, share ideas, and express their feelings. Eventually, the team members will develop a strong bond between themselves making it easy for teamwork to take place.
Task and Team Characteristics, Work Design, and Leadership Choices
The work design and leadership decisions should be in line with the work environment and the nature of the employees. Before developing and implementing a work-design, an organization/leader should consider the expectation of the team members. The employees would be highly concerned about the work structure, affiliation created, and the perceived ability to execute the tasks (Nemiro, 2004). For instance, in case a leader comes up with a work-design in which strict controls and close supervision are unnecessarily applied, the employees are less likely to be motivated. The task characteristic should also be considered while developing a task design. For example, if the tasks are considered ambiguous, the leader should come up with a more structured work design. The design makes it clear to the tasks to be performed, the required skills, and the individuals assigned to complete them.
The leadership behavior/style based on the characteristic of the team and the work is more effective in motivating the employees and enhancing the realization of the team goals. Directive leadership style is applied when the leader issues strict guidelines for the followers to observe. The approach is considered effective when the team members are uncertain about the tasks. Supportive leadership is applied when the tasks to be executed physically and or psychologically challenge the employees (Lussier & Achua, 2015). The leader takes up the role in issuing guidance and encouraging the employees. In another situation, the subordinates can be highly trained and motivated in undertaking their tasks. Before making decisions, a leader in such a team should involve the stakeholders where participative leadership style is adopted. Lastly, when a leader engages subordinates in personalized and technical tasks, then the achievement leadership style is applied. The leader set goals and create confidence among the subordinates the expectations are achievable.
Virtual Team Development and Work Design Approaches
Balancing togetherness and apartness is a critical issue in virtual team development and management. The issue can be addressed through the observation of appropriate design criteria in a four-step process in virtual team development. The four steps include idea generation, development, finalization, and closure (Malhotra, Majchrzak, & Rosen, 2007). There are three work design approaches, including the wheel, the modular, and the iterative. The wheel design approach plays a role when one individual (leader) communicates and issues directives to assistants/subordinates. The approach would be effective when a directive leadership approach is preferred. The subordinates would rarely interact among themselves; they direct their issues to the leader directly, making it hard for a strong bond and work relationship to exist. The modular approach is applied when the team members meet to discuss the goals to pursue (Malhotra, Majchrzak & Rosen, 2007). Upon completion of the tasks, the outcomes are assessed and the areas to improve for the future identified. The iterative approach involved back-and-forth cycles, where the team members work a little more; they get the feedback processing to the next tasks. The method is effective because errors and mistakes are identified regularly making it easy to achieve the objective of the entire task. The iterative work design addresses the issues concerned with the togetherness and apartness better than the wheel and the modular approaches.
As is evident from the above discussion, virtual teams are increasingly applied in organizations to exploit the opportunities in the new technology. The team members, in this respect, do not have to be co-located, which raises issues of coordination, communication, and management. It is recommended that a leader in a virtual team should use options, including clarification of tasks and processes, agreeing on the shared language, reinforcing social bonds, and commitment to a communication charter in enhancing the management of the virtual team. The work design and virtual team development should follow the four steps, including idea generation, development, finalization, and closure. Besides, a virtual group can develop through the application of three designs, including wheel, the modular, and iterative. Iterative design is considered the best because it makes it possible for the development of a close working relationship.