The future of work is virtual, with dispersed teams, telecommuting, remote working, and virtual meetings becoming the norm across sectors and industries around the world. However leading virtual teams requires a new set of skills and a facilitative leadership approach, Virtual Leadership is here to help.
At its best, virtual working can be productive and creative, tapping into the best people wherever they are and bringing skills and experience together efficiently and at a low cost. But it can also lead to isolated and disengaged workers, ineffective communication, and uncoordinated and even counter-productive activity
Virtual Leadership provides practical strategies, tools, and solutions for the key issues involved in managing at a distance. How can I provide leadership, motivation, and vision through virtual channels? How do I make virtual meetings effective, engaging, and productive, and ensure actions are followed through? How do I create engaged and cohesive teams across distance, cultures, and languages? How do I stop virtual team members silently checking out, distracted by local challenges and offline issues?
The book Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams by Penny Pullan provides suggestions and practices for people working in or with virtual teams. It discusses leadership styles suitable for virtual or remote teams and explores what can be done to improve collaboration and communication and engage remote participants
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About the Authors
Dr. Penny Pullan is Director of Making Projects Work-based in Leicestershire, UK, and a thought leader in the field of virtual leadership, specializing in leading risky change projects involving virtual teams. She has run the Virtual Working Summit since 2010 with thousands of participants from around the world. She is the author of Business Analysis and Leadership also published by Kogan Page.
About the book
Virtual work and teams have become normal in organizations around the world. This book is the guide for those who cannot always be together in person with colleagues, whether fully remote or hybrid.
Virtual Leadership offers practical strategies and proven methods for getting the best out of hybrid or remote work and teams. This useful guide explains how to create cohesive teams, collaborate creatively and effectively, and connect across barriers of distance and culture, building on the foundation of a leader’s own mindset and approach. It provides clear guidance on how to run engaging and effective meetings, as well as how to encourage high performance from motivated and happy team members in between meetings.
Fully revised throughout, this second edition:
- Provides a new chapter entirely focused on hybrid ways of working;
- Offers advice for those leading teams in a formal capacity, as well as for those where leadership is an occasional part of their role;
- Gives ideas and practical tips on how to overcome the many complications of virtual work;
- Presents diverse case studies and examples from business, education, community, healthcare and beyond, sparking insights that can be adapted to other environments.
- Leading virtual teams effectively requires a new set of skills and a facilitative leadership approach. Written by a leading expert in the field, Virtual Leadership is here as your guide.
What Is A Virtual Team?
Penny says that it’s important to define virtual work before you understand what virtual teams are. Virtual work, she writes, is: Work done by people who are geographically distributed, working together despite the fact that at least one person is not in the same location as others. Virtual work is supported by communications technology that helps people to connect when far apart.
A virtual team, then, is any team that works like that.
What Is Virtual Leadership?
The third concept defined pretty early on is virtual leadership, which you’d expect, what with it being the title of the book and all. Virtual leadership is defined as: Being able to engage people from afar to produce results together. It builds on a shared vision of the future to help people to get things done together.
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Building Strong Virtual Relationships
Building strong team relationships over distance is key to being able to lead effectively virtually and it’s covered extensively in the book. There are plenty of tips.
I read these sections thinking, “But I do all this.” But I don’t really. I might have been aware of the techniques and used some of them in the past but it’s very easy to get lazy. And it’s clear that I’m often lazy.
This book is a good way to call yourself out on behaviors you know you should do. None of them are truly revolutionary if you’ve been around virtual teams for a while, but as a set of best practices they are useful to refer to and it’s super easy to up your game and increase your effectiveness if you actually do them.
Managing What Matters: Culture, Language, Time Zones
Culture, language, and time differences are often the most important things for leaders to take into consideration because their team members really care about them. Over half of respondents to Penny’s research survey for the book reported that cultural differences were a key challenge for virtual working.
There is a whole section in the book dedicated to this. There are again lots of practical tips like building pauses into the agenda to allow non-native English speakers time to reflect and soak in the point in their own language.
One of my favorite tips from the book is for easy retrospectives. I love post-implementation reviews, and one of my own books, Customer-Centric Project Management was inspired by wanting a better way to do them. That’s why I think I’m so drawn to the idea of a lessons learned meeting that takes 5-10 minutes.
Penny says that you can ask your team two questions:
- What’s going well?
- What do you wish?
By framing the second point as: “I wish that…” you are turning it into a positive and helping people focus on what the better alternative to the status quo could be.
Make It Real
I love how Virtual Leadership is written pragmatically, with the author suggesting that if you are short of time you skip to Chapter 8 to pick up the key strategies that are most appropriate for the leadership challenges you are facing today.
Each chapter ends with questions for reflection so that you can take the myriad of tools and ideas and start to think about how they would make a difference for you, in your personal situation.
It’s for anyone who works virtually, and that will include a lot of project teams. You don’t even have to be in a formal leadership position to get something out of it.
Pragmatic and practical, this book will help you avoid horrible conference calls and quickly boost productivity wherever your team is based.
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- Many virtual teams are run poorly. It is possible to develop your own virtual leadership and become skilled at virtual meetings, engage remote team members, and do great work together.
- Use virtual team methods when at least one person is remote, even if most of the other people are co-located. Establish group norms and communications, taking everyone’s preferences into account.
- Don’t aim for command-and-control as your leadership style – it tends to backfire when used remotely! Instead, be a facilitative leader, helping team members to collaborate and each person to do the best job they can.
- Trust is key. Focus on developing trust throughout the team – encourage people to get to know each other. As for yourself, be credible, reliable, authentic, and fair.
- Choose an appropriate mix of tools to support your team’s requirements for meeting up and sharing documents and discussions. Where possible, during live meetings, use video and shared screens (with drawing/annotation where you can), plus other engagement strategies.
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