+44 (0)845 838 2345 +1 (919) 313 4558

  Loading... Please wait...

Manager’s Perspective

A series of management articles from ConnectSphere to help coach and mentor professionals with their day to day activities.  See more articles on www.connectsphere.com/resources/articles

Successfully Leading Virtual Teams

Very often in today’s business, managers, project leaders, and program leaders are asked to lead a team of people they have never met, may not ever see face to face or meet with regularly.  As companies cut back on travel and organizations spread their operational capabilities across physical locations, cities, countries, and continents, it makes the complex task of leading virtual teams even more difficult.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you if you are managing this organizational structure:

  • Clearly Communicate the Overall Goals of the Project
  • Make sure the overall goal of the project is understood from the beginning and the individual roles are defined in delivering that project.  Some organizations use formal charter documents to accomplish this
  • Discuss those project goals with the team so they can provide feedback.  Make adjustments as necessary
  • Be sure to convey the importance of their role and contribution in delivering the project successfully

Be a Leader!

I know it’s an overused term but be a LEADER. When dealing with such a wide variety of people and skillsets, people you may never see face to face, it’s important they “see” you as the leader of that project and a leader of people overall.  Here are a few suggestions on how to lead your team:

  • Set up regular meetings with some sort of published agenda
  • Be prepared to lead each and every meeting
  • Communicate regularly to all the individuals in the group
  • Make communications to the team interesting and informative
  • You’ll be providing updates to senior management.  Be sure your team sees what you are going to communicate and allow them to comment on the content.  Update the team after those meetings
  • Regularly connect with key members of the team responsible for delivering milestones and content
  • Inform, ahead of time, those people that will be presenting material at your next meeting.  Make sure they’re ready for their segment. Deal with the different personalities in the group.  Remember even though you can’t see them face to face they do have personalities you have to read and respond to. 
  • Don’t always run the meetings in your time zones – show that you are committed to flexibility

Additional Tips to Enhance the Virtual Team Experience

  • Make sure your meetings have a “personality”.  By that I mean get done what you need to get done but keep the meeting light and uplifting if at all possible.  People will want to come to your meetings.  They will more than likely have a choice of going to your meeting or going to one or two others in that same time slot.  Make them want to come to yours!
  • Leverage those on the team that are most interested in being involved.  Give them assignments.   Have them present at meetings.  Talk to them one to one whenever possible.  Make them interested in what is being delivered
  • Make each person feel a part of the team, someone you value being there
  • Work to ensure all organizations stay involved over the length of the project or program.  If someone wants to drop out, ask that they find a replacement
  • Keep senior management informed of the team’s progress.  Give praise to those who warrant it during the project.  Let their managers know as well.  Celebrate short term successes that are leading towards the overall project or goal.
  • Be sure to reward the team at the end of the project or program.  Monetarily if possible.  It’s the right thing to do but also will pay dividends for any future projects you may lead.

Keep the Team’s Energy Level High

Most of all keep the energy level and enthusiasm high throughout the project.  That is entirely under your control.
Here is an example from my days working in the Banking industry.
You have probably noticed, when you’ve walked into different branches of the same bank, each branch seems to have its own identity.  Some branches are sullen or surly with workers going through the motions. Others have vitality to them.  The staff at these branches are always positive and seem to like where they’re working.  That’s no accident.  It has to do with the tone the leader of that branch sets for the staff.  Bad manager, bad branch.  Good manager, good branch.  It is the same for projects and programs as well.  You are the key to the project’s success!

The Bottom Line

I’ve always enjoyed leading virtual teams.  The more you put into it the better your outcome.  I often feel as if I’m conducting an orchestra.  At times it seems that I’m coaching and mentoring staff during the project.  It gives me the opportunity to work with interesting people from all over the world.  It gives me a chance to learn about them, motivate them, while still delivering critical projects for the organisation.  
If offered an opportunity to lead a virtual team, by all means take it!  Use the suggestions provided here and enjoy the experience.
If your organization wants to look at the bigger picture of developing an IT competency framework I suggest looking at the SFIA* website - www.sfia.org.uk.
If you think your organization can benefit from the tips provided in this article, contact ConnectSphere . 

About the Author

Vic Porcelli is an experienced IT Management Consultant who is ITIL V3 Foundation and CSI certified, a Six Sigma Green Belt, with extensive knowledge in staff and project management using virtual, multi-cultural teams.  Follow Vic on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/vicporcelli.
* The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) is owned by the SFIA Foundation:  www.SFIA.org.uk

Click on the link to obtain an RSS feed to all new ConnectSphere articles