The Dos & Don’ts of Virtual Team Emails

Not long ago, I posted an item on global work teams. Now, someone has actually written a book on how they work. Nancy Brown-Johnston, director of Global Change Management Network at General Motors University, offers some simple tips for how virtual teams–whose members are scattered around the world and may never meet in person–should communicate via email. Much of these ideas are pretty much no-brainers. Even so, they’re worth a mention:

  • Answer messages promptly
  • Send simple, straightforward messages
  • Send group mail when all recipients need it
  • Remove people from your distribution lists
  • Ask to be removed from distribution lists
  • Use subject lines in emails and be specific
  • Use attachments sparingly
  • Use websites to communicate large documents
  • Update your outgoing message when you are out of the office
  • Forward messages with care and consideration

“Whether you are now forming your first virtual team or improving the one you already have, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ or hands off management are not good options,” says Brown-Johnson. “Communication mechanisms are essential to a virtual team. However, don’t rely on the mechanisms themselves. Whether it is your weekly telephone conferences, net meetings, or an e-mail system, build adequate communication systems.”

Her book is The Driving Force: Lessons in Teamwork from Saturn and Other Leading Companies (2004, Xephor Press).

Any ideas from readers who are on virtual teams?