The Four Collaboration-Killers of Virtual Team Building

Finding it difficult to get a grip on virtual team building?  You’re not alone!  Today’s teams are larger, virtual, more diverse, and full of experts. Teams look vastly different today than they did in the past, and not just because they’re virtual.  The ironic thing is: the 4 things that make virtual teams so great are also 4 things that kill collaboration.

The Four Collaboration-Killers of Virtual Team Building

Two business experts took a look at virtual team building and collaboration and published their work in the Harvard Business Review*.  Here’s what they found.

  1.  Most of today’s teams are virtual.

Businesses of today face complex tasks requiring expertise that’s very often scattered around the country. (or the globe!)  Technology has allowed us more options for working together across long distances and in larger groups, but the price we pay is a weaker sense of collaboration.

  1.  Today’s teams are larger than even just a decade ago. 

Perhaps partly because of the rise of virtual team building, teams are bigger than ever.

  1.  Diverse teams are less likely to share knowledge.

There’s a natural diversity that comes with the ability to assemble teams of people who don’t work together every day in the same location.  That makes collaboration even more difficult.

Combining different backgrounds and perspectives is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to virtual team building.

  1.  The more experts you have on your team, the greater likelihood of conflict. 

One last challenge to today’s teams is that when they’re brought together to achieve major initiatives, it often requires deeply specialized skills to get things done. That means teams are often filled with experts.  Research shows that the more highly educated members on your team, the more conflict you’re going to have!

Here’s how to address those challenges to virtual team building.

The number one way to combat a lack of collaboration in your team, according to the authors of the review, is:

“Investing in signature relationship practices.  Executives can encourage collaborative behavior by making highly visible investments …that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration”

-First of “Eight Factors That Lead to Success”

Other ways to foster collaboration included “ensuring requisite skills”.  The following skills were recommended:

  • building relationships
  • communicating well
  • resolving conflicts

That’s where team building workshops can help!  If your human resources department needs help teaching skills that lead to better collaboration, give us a call.  Our workshops are designed for virtual team building too!


*Gratton, Lynda and Erickso, Tamara J.  “Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams”.  Harvard Business Review November 2007.