Feedback For Virtual Teams

Today’s global business environment requires more and more leadership teams to operate from a distance. So how do you provide effective feedback when you don’t see your leaders on a regular basis? Here are some guidelines for effective long-distance feedback.

Don’t leave feedback to chance.Giving feedback to long-distance team members requires you to make a more formal effort. Random, in the moment feedback is not as easy because you cannot observe behavior on a day-to-day basis. To make sure feedback happens:

1. Set up regularly scheduled calls for one-on-one discussions.

2. Ensure that every time you are in the same location, you devote at least a small portion of time to one-on-one development discussions.

3. Consider enlisting an on-site ‘surrogate’ coach (such as an HR manager) to assist you in your development efforts. Discuss with your direct report the concept of co-managing their development with a neutral on-site resource that can work with you to provide timely and meaningful ongoing feedback and coaching.

4. Utilize technology. With communication tools such as voice mail, e-mail and cell phones, ‘out of sight’ does not have to mean ‘out of touch’. Work with your direct reports to establish mutually acceptable means for giving and receiving ongoing feedback.

5. Focus on personal, as well as professional. Building a strong relationship with a virtual team member requires extra effort to get to know the person as an individual, not just a direct report. Find ways to integrate more personal ‘water cooler’ talk into your virtual communications (share information about family, weekend plans, hobbies, celebrations, favorite foods, etc.). Getting to know each other better will help alleviate the awkwardness of long-distance, impersonal feedback sessions.