LSA Global Insights Newsletter: Leading Virtual Teams - The Top 4 Challenges and 3 Winning Strategies

4.24.2017

Leading Virtual Teams - The Top 4 Challenges and 3 Winning Strategies

3 men trying to communicate through bull horns illustrating the kind of challenge virtual teams face

We call them "Virtual Teams" but the only thing virtual about these teams is their cyber office. Otherwise, these teams are made up of real people solving real problems and producing real deliverables. 

These teams have some special challenges. If you are leading a virtual team, there are three dimensions of communication you need to know.  

Distributed Teams are More Challenging
Let's start with the problem. Why treat virtual teams any differently than other project team? What's special? Distance. This translates into four specific challenges:
  1. First, where's the informal communication that happens at the coffee pot or water cooler? "So tell me, Eric, how many of these kinds of projects have you worked on?" or "I have a few simple questions I didn't really want to raise in the team meeting - you know, I didn't want to look dumb, but..."
  2. Second, what are you going to do about that old rule of thumb that 75% of communication is non-verbal when the only communication you have is verbal or written?
  3. Now add that most teams hit headwinds and must rely on trust and commitment to stick together when the going gets rough. Can you build trust and commitment across time zones?
  4. Then there's the logistics: What time do you meet? And where do you keep the project's "stuff"?
Three Winning Communication Strategies of Leading Distributed Teams
Notice the key term is leading. Not organizing, but leading. 

Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, emphasizes that "leaders have followers." To be a leader of a distributed group of people that you don't see daily, you must be conscious of three dimensions of communication.


About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting and training firm that helps high growth technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy. Learn more about getting aligned