The late great movie director Sidney Lumet believed that making motion pictures requires everyone involved to fully understand the intention of the story.
He said the greatest compliment the cast and crew could give one another was, “Good work. We’re all making the same movie.”
As a virtual leader, a significant part of your job is to help the members of your team “make the same movie.”
With each team member working in isolation, the team relies on you to share with them how one another’s actions are vital to achieving the larger purpose – the “big picture.” By making sure all team members understand their contribution to the team and to the organization as a whole, you create a sense of community. And by creating alignment in which all members of the team focus their energy on a common vision, you ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction.
We have a few strategies for establishing shared goals and encouraging others to work toward them…
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Solicit team input to create your shared purpose or goal.
- Regularly review the team plan and its progress to keep team members motivated and in the loop.
- Discuss and deal with issues as soon as they come up.
Share the larger purpose.
- Give your team members a clear sense of purpose by sharing the “why,” “what,” and “how” of each project. This helps individual team members feel connected with one another, with the project, and especially with the big picture.
- Conduct a project kick-off meeting. Or start every project with a proven methodology that is consistent and universally understood. This could include a shared calendar, templates to use, handbook to follow, etc.
- Keep the big picture at the forefront with regular team meetings. Include a discussion of the status of current and recently completed projects.
Access individual and team strengths.
- Determine the strengths of your team members and how those strengths work together to build the collective strength of the group.
- Use a formal or informal strengths assessment. Informally, you can ask team members to share what strengths they believe they each contribute to the team.
- Help team members get to know one another’s strengths by compiling the results of the strength assessments into one document that illustrates the collective strength of the team. Make it accessible to everyone.
Define roles and responsibilities.
- Hold a project kick-off meeting to discuss each team member’s responsibilities.
- Create a document listing those roles and responsibilities and keep it accessible.
- When new team members join the team, meet virtually with the new member and each existing member to make introductions and discuss expectations.
Viewing themselves as part of a collective whole with a common vision will help sustain team members. It will also inspire a sense of community despite physical isolation. Once you’ve got your team working toward the same big picture, the next step as an effective virtual leader is to encourage and provide a means for collaboration.