Following our two recent blogs on “Collaborative Technology and Collaborative People”, this, the third in the series, is a guest blog by David Bowie, the founder of 1 Virtual World, a new venture which, as I stated at the outset, is potentially one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen in recent years.
Gareth Biggerstaff, MD, Be-IT Resourcing
Organisations have very high expectations of their employees when it comes to delivering value. And you would think this value would be more easily delivered with the huge amount of technology available today to facilitate collaboration. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the clamour to stay current with flexible work programs, telecommuting opportunities and enabling virtual teams to work together, businesses have been pouring money into collaboration technologies. Some companies even look to tools and technologies to solve team performance problems.
It’s rather like loading up a technology ‘gun’ and firing it off into the organisation and hoping for a hit. Leaders adopting this method will not be able to maximise the productivity of virtual teams without addressing common remote working issues first. These include: trust, accountability, ownership, isolation, time-zones, culture, teamwork, motivation and career aspirations.
The biggest problem for change champions wanting to maximise existing virtual teams or adopt new remote working policies is changing the current management mind-set. Leaders must change the old-school 'line of sight' management technique. In other words, if I, as a manager, see you in the office every day at your desk, I go home happy at night because I think you are working. You could be surfing the internet all day, but I still go home happy because I have seen you at your desk. There is comfort in that. However it’s a false sense of security.
To succeed, virtual leaders need to change the way they manage their team’s deliverables. As a leader of a virtual team, the ability to expertly delegate is fundamental. Once they have delegated, the leader must then trust the members of the team to complete their tasks on time and to the standard required. Trust is a critical component for successful virtual teamwork. Employees who truly excel in virtual teams are typically those who can cope with ambiguity, especially when under pressure. When this is combined with a team leader who is prepared to trust, and not resort to a ‘micro-management’ approach, the results usually far exceed expectations.
The ability to cope with uncertainty is important when implementing or hiring for virtual teams. Recruit people who can cope with ambiguity; those that don't need every specific detail of the task clarified before they are able to start. In today's virtual team environments, it is a recipe for disaster if the leader tends towards micro-management and the team members depend upon them to determine how to complete their goals. That combination kills creativity and innovation.
Remote teams flourish and are most successful when the team members are flexible, self-motivated and are consciously collaborative in their approach to getting the job done. As a virtual leader, the challenge is to locate, develop and harness these skills through acting as a role model, coach, mentor and facilitator to the team.
The skill set for effective virtual leaders requires them more than ever to be a servant to their team. This can be uncomfortable for many managers moving to leading a virtual team for the first time. However, it is possible to coach and develop both virtual leaders and virtual teams to cope with the challenges of working virtually. Access to the right training will significantly improve a virtual team’s chance of operating with greater confidence in their ability to face uncertainty and overcome it to deliver their goals. As Nick Hyatt, Learning Architect at 1 Virtual World says, “Collaborative people who have fully adopted a consciously collaborative approach, will produce 90% of the collaborative excellence desired of any highly productive virtual team.”
David Bowie, 1 Virtual World
Additional information on virtual teams at 1 Virtual World.