Few people realize the challenges of leading virtual teams.
I think main point is that people don’t see each other and unless you as a manager provide time and format and structure for them to present themselves as individuals, they would never do this themselves and they would stay anonymous. They will not become a team but will be just a group of separate experts selected to perform a certain task.
One of the challenges, since there is no time at the coffee machine, this format needs to be re-created online. Give people an opportunity to present themselves and their strengths on a regular basis. This keeps people-to-people connection and relationship going.
Very often managers of virtual teams are the ones who deliver communication to the team, top down: goals, corporate targets, etc. but the best way of communicating with virtual teams is to decentralize communication and empower the team instead and don’t micro-manage! Give them a clear goal: WHAT to be delivered but then set them free on the HOW, of course, within budget and time constraints. But for the rest empower the people and let them shine!
Incentivize your team.
And I think the third one is incentives. Because people don’t see themselves doesn’t mean that they cannot celebrate together. You could go for exotic trips if you could fund it but I also work a lot with NGOs which have zero budget and they do like virtual pizza and they gather everyone and they see each other on the video and they pop up the same bottle of sparkling wine at different locations! So, even without a budget, if you let them think, if you have a clear target you can still celebrate. So, this fun factor sometimes is underestimated but it could be done if you facilitate and let the people choose.