Patrick Lencioni wrote a brief but very insightful perspective on leading virtual teams. He introduces the topic with:
When I speak to audiences about teamwork, one of the most frequently asked questions I get has to do with managing groups of people who are geographically dispersed, a.k.a. virtual teams. This surprises me a little because the topic, as well as the solution for addressing it, is certainly not very sexy.
He says the key is to avoid making three mistakes.
- The first mistake that virtual teams make is underestimating the challenges of being dispersed. Because e-mail and voicemail and texting and instant messaging have become so second nature, we too often assume that a team member’s physical location makes little difference in the effectiveness of the team.
- The next mistake that virtual teams make is wasting the precious time that they do spend together. Too many virtual teams utilize their quarterly or monthly in-person sessions engaging in social activities, somehow believing that this is how the team will bond. While social time is okay, there should be a focused and organized attempt to build relationships in the context of the work that needs to be done.
- The last mistake that virtual teams make is failing to master an event that is one of the most loathed and underestimated of all corporate activities: the dreaded conference call. What teams have to do—and I told you up front that this is simple and unsexy—is make a serious commitment to one another that they will maintain a high standard of behavior during conference calls, even higher than they would for an in-person meeting.
What are your experiences leading from a distance?