Be heard and brainstorm with someone who has been in your shoes
According to a recent leadership survey, the vast majority of leaders miss someone to talk too, whether it is at the workplace, at home, or as part of the board. Often, this loneliness, is either based upon a fear of losing “face” with one’s peers or due to the face that many bosses start their career leading former colleagues. Leading from a distance only magnifies the problem.
Often when you become a leader of your former colleagues, doors which used to be open to you are suddenly slammed shut because you are no longer “one of them”. It can also be difficult to discuss your uncertainties with your own boss because you may not want to lose face but often times, it can be because your own boss hasn’t had to deal with what it is like to lead others at a distance.
You are not alone
I know and understand where you are coming from. I mentor and coach managers and leaders for small as well as large companies such as Electrolux, Hewlett Packard as well as NGOs.
My advice is based not only upon the MBA I took in Strategic Communication but also on a number of successful global projects I’ve led for large multinationals, NGOs and a renowned university – including the implementation of e-learning strategies and numerous MBA leadership development programs. These projects involved forming and effectively leading teams who had team members spread throughout the world and who had to work virtually.
I’ve also written a book on the subject.
My own quest
My quest for the best and most effective ways of managing global teams, global projects and virtual teamwork began seven years ago when I was promoted to lead five virtual teams for three product lines at Electrolux and the joys and challenges I faced doing so. My employees, many of whom were my former colleagues, were spread throughout the world and most didn’t know each other beforehand.
Like you, I suddenly found that the leadership skills that had worked so well for me in the past were suddenly inadequate. I scoured the internet, asked everyone I could find and read book and book, shocked at how little people discussed actually managing people: project and task management, yes; performance and effectiveness management, yes; people management, no way.
Most of the content, particularly on the internet, dealt more with IT-related issues, usually solely within an American context, than with the actual issue of how to successfully manage a team that is based in many different countries and has many different agendas and stakeholders.
On top of this, I was also getting almost daily requests from different management teams throughout the company asking for guidance – either for information or strategies – on how to successfully manage a virtual team. The last thing I wanted to admit was that I was having the same problems or worse, that I didn’t know and so began my intensive quest.