Managing Cross-Functional Teams Virtually

Cross-functional teams, by definition, have people with very different skillsets, perspectives, and goals. Because of this, aligning and motivating a cross-functional team can be a challenge. We will guide you through three key strategies for managing cross-functional teams in a remote setting: driving innovation, collaboration, and communication.

Driving innovation through psychological safety

Innovation can be considered anything new we do with our teams to drive business impact. It’s a key to the success of any operation. The hard part, and something we hear far too often, is, “how can I get my team members to speak up in meetings?” An excellent solution to this is to create psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that team members feel safe to share ideas or comments without fear of ridicule, judgement, retribution, or being blamed if an idea doesn’t pan out. Responsibility for creating psychological safety falls on the leader, not on the respective initiatives of individual team members. It’s up to you to intentionally create an environment where people feel safe to speak up.

When team members do bring new ideas to the table, ask them to explain their plan and reasonings in detail. Don’t be afraid to cast doubt on weak points, but make sure to give them a chance to address those points. Refine and re-evaluate plans collaboratively to align them with team goals. By doing this, you ensure that all ideas, even those that initially sounded far-fetched, are fully considered and understood by the group.

When you successfully guide conversations, a number of ideas that come from different perspectives can come together to form a plan to reach your team’s goals. Easing up on structure and opening the teams’ minds to new ideas is important to creating an open-minded environment and contributes to the health of the team.

Collaborative culture

To turn a group of people from different departments into an efficient cross-functional team, you need to build a collaborative culture. Start by setting clear goals and expectations for collaboration. How does the team prefer to be contacted? How should constructive criticism be given? What are we all here to do? Aligning the team’s goals can help motivate each member and offer them a sense of purpose. Make sure that everyone understands how they fit into the team, what their purpose is, and how they can help the team succeed.

Encourage conversations where team members from different departments can share insights and challenges. Sharing different perspectives can lead to a better understanding of each other’s contributions, lead to better problem-solving as a team, and better results to bring to your boss.

Recognize and celebrate collaborative efforts. Highlight successful projects where cross-functional collaboration was key. Not only does this motivate the team, but it also reinforces the idea that communication and working together creates a higher quality product.

Clear communication

Communication is the backbone of any successful team. Establish regular check-ins to keep everyone on the same page. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings can address ongoing issues, track progress, and plan for upcoming tasks.

Create a communication protocol that outlines the preferred channels for different types of communication. For example, use email for formal updates, Slack for quick questions, and video calls for in-depth discussions. This reduces confusion and ensures that messages are delivered and received appropriately.

Provide feedback consistently. Even with relatively straightforward work, when left to their own devices it’s easy for team members to feel abandoned and uncertain about their performance. Regular, constructive feedback keeps them aligned with team goals and improves their engagement and productivity.

These strategies can help overcome the challenges of remote work and lead your team to success. Remember, the key is to embrace the flexibility remote work provides and to create an environment where everyone feels connected and motivated. With the right tools, your teams can achieve success far beyond your goals.