3 Key Steps to Aligning Your Teams in A Virtual World


Does your organization struggle to pass information between teams, or to foster interdepartmental collaboration? If so, you could be contending with workplace politics, but it’s more likely that you have an issue with your organization’s social network. The index on which your position in the workplace network and your ability to access and utilize workplace relationships effectively is known as the Social Quotient (SQ).

Though Social Quotients have been driving success stories for hundreds of years, its concepts and tools to measure have developed only recently. It began when the Medici family seized new opportunities and gained power in Renaissance Florence through the deliberate and methodical cultivation and maintenance of their relationships with other families. This may even be the source of the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know.’ History aside, SQ has been shown to have a significant impact on career success and organizational outcomes.

When you understand how your organization’s network affects the interactions between individuals and groups you can start to utilize them to their full potential. You’ll need to measure Social Quotient before you can act, though. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, work is growing more complex, knowledge-driven, and matrix-executed. As such, SQ is going to be more important in the modern work environment than ever before.

Post Pandemic Expectations

One immediate impact of 2020 is that CEOs and senior executives have had to consider implementing a strategy when the execution teams aren’t physically in the same space. In many cases, business operations severely undermined by COVID-19 have also found response difficult with dispersed delivery and execution capacity.

The promise of vaccines has led to a collective hope that the world may return to normal. The reality is that we are not going back – this is our new normal. Virtual teams, in some form, are here to stay.

But for managers, executives, and staff, expectations have also changed. Staff may be happier at home, but the sudden drop in travel costs and office space is also attractive. Nevertheless, there are still persistent issues with going virtual:

  • Misunderstandings around objectives, vision, and strategy lead to duplication of effort, poor collaboration, withholding, and a lack of clarity and purpose.
  • The lack of immediate communication, infrequent communication and the limitations of messaging and video conferencing limits employee productivity.
  • Confused leadership or followership blur accountabilities, and silos and political influences lead to problems with morale and motivation.
  • Over-reliance on virtual meetings through applications like Teams, Skype and Google Meet, means that extraverted voices may dominate. Cross-cultural clashes may also result. It is a well-established principle in social psychology that people tend to make the strongest relationships with people close to them, both physically and psychologically.
  • Conferencing becomes exhausting – ‘Zoom fatigue’ – with expectations that every meeting must be attended.

Key Steps to Aligning your Virtual Teams

To overcome these hurdles, we must understand the balance between short, medium- and long-term actions. The pandemic has resulted in extreme short-term focus, especially for those in adversely affected sectors like tourism or retail, where rapid adaptation has become necessary. Long-term success will be driven by how organizations adapt and transition from existing structures. In the case of highly structured or complex organizations, there will be varying degrees of difficulty in shifting to more matrix-based working with virtual teams. But even organizations with virtual teams and adaptive cultures will have to change how they act and learn. Therefore, medium- and long-term adaptivity is based on the social capital elements currently present in an organization.

Given the uncertainty, what actions can we take to align virtual teams? This can be broken into a three-step process:

  1. Turn intangible into tangible. By nature, virtual teams are intangible, so the aim must be to make their dynamic and impact as tangible as possible. Create meaningful, measurable, visible milestones toward company goals and objectives. Recognize and reward the ways that teams and individuals contribute toward shared successes. Encourage outcome-based interactions that yield measurable results, rather than simply logging time in meetings.
  2. Focus on interpersonal dynamics. Many consulting organizations have advocated measuring employee engagement, much of which appears to be based on increasingly outdated assumptions about both the working environment and the criticality of a ‘leader’.

    Organizations must explore patterns of communication, collaboration and trust between individuals and teams. Using a company-wide survey of interpersonal dynamics is of great value, eliminating intuition and guesswork.

  3. Focus on impactful virtual networks. Analyze your networks and focus on those that will have the biggest impact on your organization’s success. Is it the innovation network? Is it the sales network? From here, allocate extra resources to set up this virtual network for maximum success.

How Network Centrality® Can Help

Every organization has its formal structures. But traditional organizational charts do not represent true interactions between individuals and teams. Network Centrality® is our innovative tool that explores the patterns of communication, collaboration and trust between individuals and teams. It looks holistically at an organization instead of focusing on individual employees. By analyzing and visualizing the formal and informal relationships in your organization, it helps you identify where your network structure needs to be improved and how to allocate resources effectively.