Your career can be ruined and millions lost when projects fail
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Quite simply distance matters: the general assumption seems to be that a good leader should somehow just know how to transfer their skills to a virtual project and/or workplace and that specific training for either the virtual team leader or virtual team members are not needed.
While many of the basics of leading and communicating to teams are true for both face-to-face and geographically dispersed teams; working across distances amplifies the challenges of teamwork and adds some related communication complexity as it relates to leadership, trust, work and relationships mediated via technology.
The usual culprits are:
- cultural misunderstandings,
- lack of trust,
- conflicting expectations and
- unclear strategy and guidelines.
You are not alone
I mentor managers, leaders, companies and organizations on how to lead global virtual teams as well as how to implement structures and processes to avoid pitfalls 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 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.