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From New York to Hong Kong…. Master Leading Virtual Teams

Leading teams are more complicated since groups are located across different cities, states and continents.  Today more than ever many people are leading or participating in virtual teams.

When managing a virtual team it’s critical you have some of the “musts” for any high performance teams – purpose, vision, goals and priorities, operating agreements, shared leadership, boundaries and standards, roles and responsibilities, communication agreements, rewards and recognition and resources.

And you will also need to:

  – Be culturally sensitive – culture does not necessarily mean NY and Bombay, it can also mean NY and Atlanta.  Look at your organization, see where your teammates are located and make sure you know and are well versed in the cultural sensitivities.

  – Mind the time zones – so often clients complain about meetings scheduled either too early or too late or unable to have all the team on the same call or virtual setting.  If you are setting up a meeting at 9am for east coast, remember it’s 6am on the west coast, 2pm in London and 9am the next day in Beijing.

  – Get creative with team bonding activities – since you are all over the world, having team bonding in one location may not make any sense.  Get creative – have a virtual coffee gathering!

  – Create set meeting times – have set meetings for the whole group, this will ensure the team meets consistently.

  – Rotate locations and meeting leaders – have people spend time in each other’s locations and rotate team leaders to engender shared leadership.

  – Learn what works for each site – consider the working hours, norms for each office and anything else that will be opportunities and challenges for how the team will work.  Ensure your teammates have access to the same technology and tools.  Just because you have something doesn’t mean everyone else does.

  – Select the right technology – in a virtual team, technology is the medium for communication.  Be wary of technology that drops words or mysteriously shuts down.  Find a technology that works.

  – Find one central place – create one place to keep team agreements, notes from interactions, and anything else the team would find valuable, in one place accessible to all.

  – Decide on engagement – determine how to keep engaged with virtual team members.  It’s too easy to be “out of sight, out of mind”.  As the team leader you must spend double the time communicating because you won’t have those accidental interactions of catching someone in the hall.  Create planned and unplanned ways for interaction.

  – Run a virtual team meeting well – when running a virtual meeting, ask a lot of questions, don’t monologue (you will put people to sleep and encourage multitasking), allow people to interact, document who is on the call and how many times they have spoken up (should be equal), call on people to ensure everyone participates and follow up with next steps in writing.

If you are not physically in the same office – whether you are located in different parts of the NY area to Johannesburg, South Africa – you are part of a virtual team.  Virtual teams provide a terrific opportunity to create more engaging ways for the group to interact, mingle and get to know each other well.  Mastering your leadership and participation in these teams is essential to growing your career.

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