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Challenges Managing Virtual Teams

Challenges Managing Virtual TeamsIn a survey Abudi Consulting Group did of 50 managers who lead virtual teams, the following top three challenges were identified:

  • Communication issues: communicating across time zones as well as lack of appropriate technology to enable for virtual communications
  • Cultural differences: understanding cultural backgrounds and managing in a way that enables for increased effectiveness on the team
  • Lack of understanding among team members as to what it means to be part of a virtual team

This data is certainly not statistically significant; however, it is of interest in understanding where to focus when trying to improve how we lead and engage virtual teams.

Here are some ideas on how to conquer these challenges:

Challenge Identified

Ways to Conquer the Challenge

Communication issues

  • Source technology for communications that enables for sharing information among the team, ensure all team members have access to the technology and training on how to use it
  • Share the pain! Spread out meetings so that at some point in time everyone on the team is meeting at a time convenient for them.
  • Collaborate with the team to develop policies for responses to emails so that those individuals who receive an email late at night don’t feel like they have to respond immediately
  • Collaborate with the team to determine how best to communicate – email, text, phone, internal site – and when to use specific communication channels

Cultural differences

  • Consider some activities that enable the team members to get to know each other and learn about the variety of cultures represented on the team.
  • If you can get the team together in one location, consider a “pot luck” lunch where everyone brings in a food item specific to their ethnic background.
  • Be sure as the manager you have an understanding of the variety of cultures represented on the team and learn also about your team and how you need to interact with them.

Lack of understanding about what it means to be part of a virtual team

  • Bring the team together – either in one location or via a virtual platform – and collaborate on how the team will work together – what processes and procedures will be in place to enable for getting the work done, solving problems, resolving conflicts, etc.
  • Consider a mini session on what is means to work as a member of a virtual team and discuss how challenges that arise will be handled.

What are your ideas around how to conquer these challenges in managing virtual teams? What other challenges have you encountered and how have you solved them? Share your thoughts in the Comments field below.