Best Practices for Leading Virtual Project Teams. Gina Abudi, MBA

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1 Best Practices for Leading Virtual Project Teams Gina Abudi, MBA

2 Session Objectives Increase the success of your projects working with and leading virtual teams by: Building a cohesive and committed team to ensure objectives are accomplished Communicating effectively across cultural boundaries Effectively managing conflict and problems that arise Creating a virtual collaborative environment 2

3 Discussion: Challenges What are your challenges managing virtual project teams? 3

4 Special Considerations and Challenges of Virtual Teams Variety of processes for getting work done Lack of collaboration tools and technology Cultural differences Ineffective communications from the team leader Lack of understanding of where team members fit in Complexity of time zones Lack of necessary skills/experiences Ineffective team leadership 4

5 Impact of Cultural Diversity Miscommunications between team members Lack of understanding of others cultures Making assumptions based on cultural identity Expecting others to adapt to the project leader Not understanding what encompasses diversity in others Not fully engaging all members of the team 5

6 Effective Virtual Teams Have spent time getting to know one another Display concern and support for fellow team members Diverse members included a mix of perspectives, knowledge, skills, experiences Access to a variety of communication channels Guidelines and ground rules mutually agreed upon A strong project or team leader! Out of sight out of mind 6

7 Effective Virtual Team Leadership Inspire and motivate Facilitate team meetings Be a coach Understand cultural backgrounds Share information Agreed to processes and procedures Build strong relationships Share the leadership role Learn communication preferences Foster collaboration Remove barriers Enable autonomy 7

8 Building a Strong Virtual Team Kick off the team before kicking off the project Strong relationships are essential! Challenging with virtual teams Can t always get everyone together Options: Face-to-face Virtual Teleconference Team building activities are a must! 8

9 Discussion: Advantages What are the advantages of working on and/or leading a virtual project team? 9

10 Be sensitive to: Holidays Religious occasions Time zone differences Managing Virtual Meetings Virtual meeting platforms enable for more engagement, sharing and participation than via conference call Some tips: Have detailed agendas Audio record the meeting Use round robin techniques for discussions Evaluate the effectiveness Prepare, Prepare, Prepare! 10

11 Regular Check-in s Regular review meetings early on and throughout Individual team members Whole team Individual check-in Skills, expertise, experiences, continued development and learning opportunities Successes and challenges Team check-in What s going well? Where do we need to work together better? Ask how well you are performing as the team leader. 11

12 Team leader(s) Team members Team sponsor(s) 3 Key Team Roles Provide virtual team members with shorter assignments (2 3 week in duration). Remember: Clearly defined and understood roles enables for increased effectiveness on the team. 12

13 Other Key Team Roles Team members can play a variety of key roles effectively sharing leadership with the team leader Key point of contact for stakeholders Lead sub-teams Lead special teams Key point of contact for regional area Responsibility for monitoring team collaboration sites Regularly checking in with/reaching out to junior team members Providing training in areas where they have expertise 13

14 Shared Visions and Processes Collaboratively discuss and agree on: Common goal and purpose for coming together as a team Common approach to working on the activities of the project Clear set of objectives as to what is to be achieved and by when Roles and responsibilities on the team Ground rules for all team meetings Use a team norms and operating agreement to develop common approaches to getting the work done 14

15 Discussion: Building Trust on Teams What causes the following on project teams: Trust Builders? Trust Destroyers? Positive Environment? Negative Environment? 15

16 It takes time! Learning to Work Together Learn about the other cultures represented on the team Meet in a variety of ways depending on situation via Face-to-face Virtual meetings Teleconference Portal Must get to know each other to feel committed to the team 16

17 Effective Communications Work in conjunction with the team to determine the communication plan: Communication needs Communication paths Communication channels Communication response times Communication status Documentation procedures Timing of communications Regular social communication not just business-focused communication is essential in virtual teams to build rapport and strong relationships. 17

18 Managing Virtual Team Conflicts Only involve the entire team if: The conflict is affecting the performance of many of the team members The conflict is affecting the project overall and the ability of the team to meet its goals The conflict is interfering with regular communications on the team The conflict has been going on for a while with no resolution, or possible resolution, between the parties in sight Establish and follow a set process to collaborate effectively to resolve conflicts between team members. 18

19 Conflict Resolution/Negotiation Model 19

20 Use a variety of ways: Creating a Virtual Collaborative Environment Virtual meeting tools (Skype, WebEx, NetMeeting, etc.) Internal collaboration portals (SharePoint, GoogleDocs, etc.) Instant messaging Telephone/conference calling; video conferencing Have a team directory for access by all team members. 20

21 Collaborative Environments Technology Used Objective Sharing info/ getting answers/ doc review Team discussions/ brainstorming Collaborative decision making/ prob. solving Teleconference Effective Somewhat effective Not effective Effective Somewhat effective Not effective Virtual meeting Effective Effective Effective Collaboration site/ portal Effective Effective Effective 21

22 Decision Making on the Team Decision Making Style Unanimous Expert/leader decides Compromise Multi Voting Majority Vote Consensus Pros Cons Best Use Fast and easy, everyone on team Fast and efficient, ideal if advice/ input gathered True teamwork, significant discussion Objective, democratic approach Fast approach, creates clear decision Collaborative, builds strong teams Discussion may have been needed Not great for teams, lacks buy in May divide the group Limited discussion, simply rank options Risk of vote based on emotions Time consuming, must be well facilitated Minor decisions Clear expert on team and minor decision Polarized group, no clear agreement Many alternatives, criteria for choosing 2 distinct options Ideas and thoughts of whole team needed, team essential 22

23 Summary Leading or working in virtual teams is common on nearly all projects these days Challenges are numerous and include: Lack of cultural awareness Lack of time spent developing relationships and building the team Ineffective communications Ineffective meeting management Spend time up front enabling the team to get comfortable with each other Develop processes and procedures jointly with the team The more you invest in building a cohesive team, the increase in the likelihood of a successful end result 23

24 Contact Information: Questions and Downloads Gina Abudi, MBA Phone: (603) Website: Blog: Download sample activities, templates, a white paper and the slide deck from: 24

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