Managing remote team members has become integral to the modern workforce, especially in medical practices. In this era of rapid technological advancements, medical practice leaders increasingly rely on virtual team members to help deliver quality care to patients. This shift has brought forth new challenges, including efficiently managing virtual team members to achieve organizational goals.
The role of medical practice leaders in virtual team management cannot be overemphasized as they are responsible for providing direction, motivation, and support to their team. Because of this, they must be able to manage a remote team while building trust and rapport with team members in the virtual workspace.
If there’s one person who demonstrates exceptional virtual team management skills, it’s none other than our very own COO at My Mountain Mover, Chrissa Ranis. She is a dynamic leader who inspires colleagues with her warmth, experience, and passion for constant growth. Chrissa holds a degree from the University of the Philippines and a certificate from Harvard Business School, and she has been in the remote staffing industry for over ten years.
As the COO of a company with more than 600 VAs, Chrissa oversees My Mountain Mover’s daily operations, ensuring that all departments run smoothly and efficiently. With her extensive experience in this field, she is well-positioned to offer valuable insights and advice to practice leaders looking to maximize the potential of their virtual medical assistants. Her knowledge and expertise can help ensure that healthcare practices get the most out of their virtual team members, allowing them to improve their productivity, efficiency, and overall performance.
Here are some tips and tricks for managing remote teams from Chrissa, My Mountain Mover’s COO:
The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
Managing virtual team members offers a significant advantage in effectiveness and cost efficiency compared to in-person teams. However, working with virtual team members presents unique challenges for practice leaders due to geographical distance and time differences. As Chrissa aptly stated;
“One of the primary challenges, I believe, for most remote teams, is communication. We heavily rely on technology to communicate and collaborate in a remote setup. But without clear communication channels and protocols, there is always a possibility of misunderstandings which can eventually impact productivity and teamwork.”
While the virtual workspace offers significant advantages and innovation, it is still a new concept that only some practices are accustomed to. In this context, effective communication becomes even more critical for remote team members, bridging the gap and aligning them with in-person teams despite the distance. However, communication isn’t the only challenge that Chrissa mentioned;
“Another challenge is making sure team members remain engaged, motivated, and feel connected because, in the remote work setup, we can always easily feel isolation or disconnection.”
The absence of in-person colleagues can leave virtual team members feeling disconnected from the practice, leading to disengagement and decreased motivation. These effects can significantly impact team performance and productivity, making it essential for practice leaders and managers to prioritize strategies promoting community and collaboration among team members.
By creating a shared vision, values, and mission statement, practice leaders can help virtual team members feel a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization’s goals. Furthermore, regular communication and recognition can go a long way in improving engagement and motivation levels.
Improving Communication and Establishing Culture
To bridge the gap between confusion and clarity for remote team members, practice leaders must implement strategies to improve communication. Chrissa knows this too well, which is why she has come up with a game plan to ensure that there is constant communication among the team she manages;
“We are rallying on certain strategic implementations such as regular check-ins, and defined channels for communications such as chats and emails.”
With consistent communication between the practice and remote teams, medical practice leaders can foster a virtual environment where work is streamlined, effective, and motivating. However, it can be difficult to get a message across with only one person managing a team of diverse individuals with equally unique job roles. To mitigate this communication challenge, Chrissa has yet another trick up her sleeve;
“Another way that we improve our communication is by compartmentalizing it.”
Medical practice leaders should compartmentalize communication with virtual team members to disseminate important information effectively. This approach allows for clear delegation of tasks, accountability, and tracking progress, all essential for remote teams. Furthermore, it can keep the odds of miscommunication and misunderstandings at bay. As Chrissa puts it;
“It’s really all about having a strong team culture – prioritizing transparency, accountability, and trust within team members so we can build a sense of community. We arrange regular events that help us row in one direction and address the issue of remote teams lacking communication or being disconnected.”
How Physicians Can Set Virtual Team Members for Success
In most medical practices, physicians hold a position of authority, and their guidance plays a crucial role in determining the success of virtual team members. With their extensive experience and knowledge, physicians are well-positioned to lead the way in enhancing the practice’s productivity and efficiency by effectively managing remote team members.
To do this, Chrissa enumerated a few strategies that she swears by in setting virtual team members for success:
“From the beginning, leaders should set proper expectations, and this starts from defining the job description.”
Effective communication also includes being transparent with one’s expectations right from the get-go. When hiring a virtual team member, physicians or any practice leader should take the time to clearly define the role and responsibilities and identify the specific skills and experience required to succeed in the position.
Moreover, practice leaders should make candidates aware of the practice’s particularities, such as who they’ll be working closely with, how and when they should communicate with the rest of the in-person team, and what protocols they should observe. Doing so will allow for their seamless integration into the practice.
“Practitioners should also make themselves available for questions or concerns that their virtual team members may have. In that way, VAs feel supported and there is open communication.”
5 Tips from Chrissa for Managing Virtual Team Members
Create Strategies to Execute the Belief System
Medical practices need to establish a well-defined belief system consisting of a clear vision, mission statement, and core values. Doing so will foster a strong team culture as these components unify team members and promote a shared sense of purpose. By developing strategies  to execute an organization’s belief system, leaders can align their virtual team members with the organization and empower them to make a meaningful impact toward achieving the practice’s goals.
“Reinforcing this regularly and effectively using creative strategies is one good implementation that you really want to do as a practice leader. That’s one thing that you want to relay to your employees, including virtual team members.”
Setting clear boundaries is essential to effective virtual team management for practice leaders. Doing so involves establishing expectations around work hours, communication response times, and appropriate modes of communication. Virtual team members can maintain a healthy work-life balance by observing these boundaries. At the same time, practice leaders can effectively manage workloads and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding achieving the organization’s objectives.
“What are the lines that your VAs cannot cross? What are the big ‘no-no’s? What are the things they should not do? Making it clear to them would help ensure that they don’t cross any boundaries.”
Establish Diagnostic Control Systems
Effective virtual team management requires continuous improvement and one-way practice leaders can achieve this is by establishing diagnostic control systems. By utilizing performance metrics, regular check-ins, and actionable feedback, leaders can identify areas for improvement and find ways to enhance team collaboration, communication, and overall performance. In doing so, they can also ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives, promoting unity and productivity within the virtual team.
“If practice leaders set clear goals and expectations, have metrics in place for the VAs, accountability reports – even a simple ‘end of day’ report – these things will help keep VAs in check and aligned with their expectations.”
Have Interactive Control Systems
Besides diagnostic control systems, practice leaders can better manage virtual teams by implementing interactive control systems that promote real-time communication and collaboration through digital tools such as video conferencing and chat platforms. These enable seamless teamwork, foster strong relationships, and allow practice leaders to provide instant feedback and monitor progress. As a result, virtual team members feel connected to the organization and their colleagues, ultimately improving performance and engagement.
“Interactive control systems will help practices be ahead of the game, like investing in personal development and training opportunities for their VAs. If they see that their VAs have potential and are able to help them in other aspects of clinical operations, they can offer training or other skills development strategies so that the VA can help them further.”
Emphasize Open Communication
To complement the previous tips, practice leaders should prioritize open communication. Doing so entails creating a transparent and active listening culture where team members can comfortably voice their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Emphasizing open communication improves team morale, fosters creativity, and mitigates the odds of conflicts. It also helps leaders promptly detect and address potential issues, leading to enhanced team camaraderie.
“This is something that we need to emphasize – open communication. This includes regular feedback, giving them their due recognitions, and allowing everyone to open up, even if it’s for a difficult conversation.”
Circling back to the beginning of this article, managing virtual teams present unique challenges that require special attention and strategies to overcome. By implementing practices for effective virtual team management, practice leaders can maximize the potential of their remote team members, leading to improved productivity, collaboration, and overall team performance.
To make the experience of hiring and working with a virtual medical assistant, Chrissa’s company, My Mountain Mover, renders a wide range of services, offers customizable job roles, and has dedicated support departments – all coming in at a fixed monthly fee.
“We provide our VAs with training and other development opportunities to ensure that their skills are on par with the practice’s demands and that they’re multifunctional. As a company, we ensure our VAs embody our core values and culture and that they apply them to the clinics or facilities they work for.”