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When you work at a global agency with global clients, it’s common for teams to be spread across the world. That means a powerful network of talents and experience. But it also means unique challenges that you don’t encounter when you work with your colleagues face-to-face every day.

The best virtual teams operate just as seamlessly as teams that share the same location. How? Here are three things I’ve found that help diminish geographic barriers and develop trust to keep teams running smoothly:

1) Know how people work:

Get to know teammates’ work and communication styles upfront to be efficient and avoid miscommunication. You can use various personality or work style assessments to provide insights. Or simply talk often and openly about what you need to get your job done. Don’t make assumptions. Beyond individual preferences, each office or region may have its own cultural differences, even within the same country.

2) Get FaceTime:

Or something like it. Use Google Hangouts, Skype, Lync, GoToMeeting or other tools for connecting remotely. Though video conferencing isn’t a perfect substitute for meeting in person, it’s better than relying solely on email or conference calls. Written communication is great, but you miss all those nonverbal cues. Don’t let technology limitations deter you. Invest in webcams for everyone on the team and then use them. Video conferencing also cuts down on multitasking (we all do it – video helps keep us honest about giving our full attention in meetings).

3) Develop a shared identity:

Give the team a nickname, slogan, mascot or hashtag. Yes, it seems cheesy, but these things matter. Make t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and other things to keep the team in front of everyone when they’re far apart. Some team identities grow strong enough that they outlast the project or client for which they were formed.  

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army.

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