A lady I will call Sue just acquired a team from Mexico on her already virtual team. She is in the tech industry and her team consists of people in the US, Canada, and now Mexico. Sue has been a leader for many years but the shift to remote team management was in the past year.
Recently she was in a leadership workshop I was conducting and she told the group that she was challenged by the nuances of culture, the dynamics of merging the different cultures in her team and keeping everyone on the team motivated.
In the workshop I share the three ways to have great success in managing virtual teams. I will share them here with you:
#1- Take the time to get to know every member on your team through one on one Skype meetings when the team is newly formed or when a new member joins the team. Once you have had the one on one Skype meetings you will want to arrange a group meeting using Webex or Go to Meeting and introduce the team members to each other. When having the group virtual meeting open with an ice breaker that will bring every one together on the vision and goals for the group. One of the biggest challenges of leading a remote team is staying in contact and avoiding the ‘out of state, out of mind’ syndrome. Schedule regular one on one meetings to discuss how its going and to stay connected. You can also use texting to send quick notes of encouragement.
#2- Use the technology that allows for easier collaboration among remote teams, groupware such as Google docs. It is a great way for everyone to have access to and to be able to work with a live document and avoid the email trap of emailing documents around the group. Encourage your team members to connect with each other through conference calls, Skype and Webex.
#3- Increase your emotional intelligence as it relates to leading different cultures and generations. Sue who was in my workshop said that when her team from Mexico was added to her group she had to adapt her leadership style. Her leadership style was to be directing and she found that the Spanish speaking culture are more of an empathetic style, they want to talk about family and life before getting in to the work discussion. And so she has learned to take the time to ask about family and life prior to getting into the work discussion.
Another way to stay connected with your team at all times is to use an IM service such as Skype or an internal system and leave it on throughout out the work day so that your team can see if you are online and available. If you do not want to be interrupted just put your ‘away’ indicator on.
Oh and here is a bonus idea, typically with remote teams performance measurement is based mainly on output and results – in order to add a personalized component look at real time performance tools such http://www.work.com so that you can give ongoing feedback and team recognition.