Subscribe to My Feed   Follow Me On Twitter   Join Me On LinkedIn   Friend Me On Facebook

Overcoming the Challenges of Managing Virtual Teams

Managing teams in general is wrought with challenges when you consider, for example, the various personalities on the team and the fact that team members are likely working on other initiatives while working on the project you are leading. Add to that when your team is a virtual one and will likely never meet in person! And if that team is comprised of individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds (which is highly likely), you have even more challenges to manage all while trying to meet the objectives of the initiative which you are leading.

The more complex the virtual team, the more challenges you will have. If team members…

  • Come from multiple global offices
  • Are represented by time zones 8+ hours apart
  • Have a variety of cultural backgrounds
  • Include vendors/partners/customers
  • Use a variety of processes to get work done
  • Have never worked on virtual teams in the past

You have increased the complexity – and therefore the need for strong leadership  – of your virtual team. To effectively lead virtual teams, you must be able to:

  • Inspire others to commit to the initiative and do their best possible work
  • Build strong relationships throughout the team and with key stakeholders
  • Facilitate problem solving, conflict resolution, decision making sessions and team meetings in a virtual environment
  • Be a coach and a mentor
  • Motivate and keep your team members engaged
  • Foster an atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation
  • Share information honestly, openly and regularly with the team
  • Remove barriers so that team members can accomplish their work
  • Work to put processes and procedures in place that are effective for all on the team

The initial virtual team meeting, same as with any other team, is absolutely essential to team success. Too often team leaders shortchange the initial team meeting because they team is not co-located. Don’t make this mistake! This initial virtual team meeting should be well prepared for ahead of time, providing each team member information on the other members of the team – photo, background, skills/experiences, etc. – to enable for the beginning of developing relationships with each other. Be sure to utilize a variety of activities in this initial meeting so that virtual team members get to know each other which is essential for strong relationships. For example, at the start of the virtual meeting, consider having team members answer one or more of the following questions:

  • A rewarding project is one that….
  • My favorite subject in school was…..
  • I take pride in doing…..
  • If I could travel anywhere in the world and stay for 3 months I would go to…..

Building trust is essential on virtual teams (and frankly on every team!) and trust can’t be built until relationships are established. Never assume because you are the team leader that team members will automatically trust you, they will not. You will have to build trust with them. Do so through:

  • Completing your own work on the initiative on time
  • Following through on commitments you make to the team
  • Securing the needed resources
  • Being open and honest in communications
  • Sharing information about the project
  • Being accessible to the team members

How about you? How do you manage your virtual teams? What challenges have you faced and how do you meet those challenges?

Comments are closed.