Managing Virtual Teams


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Handouts from May 12 workshops conducted by Life Meets Work and Voyageur One

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Managing Virtual Teams

  1. 1. Managing Virtual Teams Workshop Oakbrook, IL May 12, 2009
  2. 2. Shelli Nelson <ul><li>Partner, Human Resources and Business Development with Voyageur One – an Organizational Development Consulting Firm specializing in strategic planning, team development, facilitation, mediation, professional seminars and executive retreats. </li></ul><ul><li>Experience in retail, marketing and finance industries. Has worked for such diverse firms as Levi Strauss & Co., Seven Worldwide, Morningstar and Spot Trading.  </li></ul><ul><li>PHR certified, Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management and brings over 15 years of Human Resources experience which includes strategic planning, mergers & acquisitions, performance management, and training & development. </li></ul><ul><li>Voyageur One has been a flexible & virtual workplace for over 20 years. </li></ul><ul><li>  As a Partner in Voyageur One, Shelli is responsible for leveraging her diverse work experience to offer Outplacement Services, Talent Discovery and Human Resources Consulting. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  3. 3. Kyra Cavanaugh <ul><li>President, Life Meets Work --a consultancy and online community that helps organizations drive bottom line results by implementing and optimizing flexible workforce strategies. </li></ul><ul><li>Flexible worker for last 10 years (telecommuting, part-time, contract, compressed work weeks). </li></ul><ul><li>Currently manages a virtual team. </li></ul><ul><li>Career in consumer packaged goods for nearly 20 years: Quaker, Keebler, Dominick’s Finer Foods, Willard Bishop Consulting </li></ul><ul><li>Member of Workplace Excellence Committee, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and spearheading flexible workforce project with the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor. </li></ul><ul><li>Speaker at upcoming 2009 Illinois State SHRM Conference and recently honored as a finalist in the AWLP Work-Life Rising Star awards. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  4. 4. Goals for this workshop <ul><li>Our goal is to provide practical advice that empowers you to implement or optimize your virtual team starting tomorrow . </li></ul><ul><li>What is your goal for today? </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  5. 5. Common concerns <ul><li>How can I manage what I can’t see? </li></ul><ul><li>Won’t they run errands/do laundry when they should work? </li></ul><ul><li>What if some employees don’t want to work from home? </li></ul><ul><li>What if I need someone and they’re not available? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I schedule a meeting if we live all over the world? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I train virtual workers? </li></ul><ul><li>Will productivity decrease? </li></ul><ul><li>What if everyone wants to do this and no one’s in the office? </li></ul><ul><li>Will this work for hourly as well as managerial? Vice versa? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I ensure that work will get done on time? </li></ul><ul><li>Are virtual workers as committed as onsite ones? </li></ul><ul><li>Won’t customer service levels decrease? </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  6. 6. The value of virtual teams <ul><li>Increased productivity </li></ul><ul><li>Increased customer satisfaction/retention and service levels </li></ul><ul><li>Increased employee retention/engagement </li></ul><ul><li>Reduced absenteeism rates </li></ul><ul><li>Reduced real estate costs, overhead </li></ul><ul><li>“ Employer of Choice” recruitment and retention strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Employees closer to customer locations </li></ul><ul><li>Coordination with virtual offices </li></ul><ul><li>Supports green/CSR initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Offsets commuting costs in time and money </li></ul><ul><li>Disability accommodation </li></ul><ul><li>Supports work/life and flexible workplace initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Business continuity/disaster planning </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  7. 7. Need more? <ul><li>60% of teleworkers are less likely to look for another job. --2008 Clean Air Campaign study </li></ul><ul><li>87% of employees and managers agreed telecommuters’ productivity improved or stayed the same. --2008 Study by National Science Foundation </li></ul><ul><li>Teleworkers were more engaged and had more favorable opinions of senior management. </li></ul><ul><li>--2008 study of 10,000 workers by Kenexa Research Institute </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  8. 8. Case in Point: Sun Microsystems <ul><li>Open Work: a network of people, places and technologies started in 1995 </li></ul><ul><li>56% of their employees work remotely at least 2 days/week </li></ul><ul><li>$387 million saved over six yrs in real estate and utility costs </li></ul><ul><li>60% of the time employees used to spend commuting, they now spend working </li></ul><ul><li>85% of employees say they’d recommend Sun as an employer </li></ul><ul><li>$1700 in fuel costs is saved annually by the average employee telecommuting 2.5 days per week </li></ul><ul><li>Telecommuters score higher on performance ratings than their on-site counterparts </li></ul><ul><li>Lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction ratings </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  9. 9. What is a virtual team? <ul><li>Arrangements vary: </li></ul><ul><li>Emergency (snow storm, sick child at home) </li></ul><ul><li>Occasional (1-2 days per week) </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent (at least 3 days) </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing (no on-site office) </li></ul><ul><li>Locations vary: </li></ul><ul><li>Home office </li></ul><ul><li>Co-working site </li></ul><ul><li>Coffee shop, library, etc. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  10. 10. What’s the secret of managing virtual teams? <ul><li>The skills you need to manage a virtual team are the same ones you need to successfully manage an on-site team. </li></ul><ul><li>It calls you to leadership, goal-setting, performance management and communication. It requires you to spend time deliberately managing your team. </li></ul><ul><li>In the end, both offsite and onsite team members benefit. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  11. 11. Create a high performing team <ul><li>What does that look like? </li></ul><ul><li>Collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Productive meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Communication/Info-sharing </li></ul><ul><li>Individual accountability </li></ul><ul><li>Trust/respect for one another </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition/Celebration </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunities for learning </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Great people </li></ul><ul><li>No silos </li></ul><ul><li>Shared goals </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  12. 12. <ul><li>Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. </li></ul><ul><li>George S. Patton </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  13. 13. What is a team? <ul><li>Group of individuals with common goals and a mission </li></ul><ul><li>The manager’s goal is to harness the collective energy and intelligence of a “potentially” disparate group of individuals and direct it at a fixed set of objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Success is highly reliant on “The Sum” of the parts being materially greater than the parts individually </li></ul>©Voyageur One, 2009
  14. 14. Getting to the “The Sum“ <ul><li>Hire the “right people” </li></ul><ul><li>+ Create a common thread based on a singular mission </li></ul><ul><li>+ Adopt a common view of group and individual expectations </li></ul><ul><li>+ Empower the individuals AND the group </li></ul><ul><li>+ Encourage individual and collective communications </li></ul><ul><li>+ Foster adoption of a spirit of trust </li></ul><ul><li>____________________________________________ </li></ul><ul><li>Highly Successful, Productive, and Effective Virtual Teams </li></ul>©Voyageur One, 2009
  15. 15. Setting up a virtual team <ul><li>Two different ways to approach the establishment of a virtual team. </li></ul><ul><li>Approach A: </li></ul><ul><li>Create a proposal and offer telecommuting/flexible work options to eligible team members. </li></ul><ul><li>Offer a pilot program for 3 to 6 months with an evaluation, and option for ongoing arrangement. </li></ul><ul><li>Approach B: </li></ul><ul><li>Allow entire organization, department, team to work flexibly. </li></ul><ul><li>Team establishes and agrees to rules and signs a Virtual Work Agreement that is reviewed and renewed every six months. </li></ul><ul><li>Recommendation: Regardless of method, establish ground rules and agreed upon behaviors in advance of implementation. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  16. 16. Virtual Teams Agreement <ul><li>An agreement that outlines the “rules of engagement” and includes things like: </li></ul><ul><li>How quickly team members are expected to reply to voice mails/emails </li></ul><ul><li>The agreement is reciprocal-”we flex you, you flex us back” </li></ul><ul><li>How often team members should report their activities, progress toward goals </li></ul><ul><li>How often team members should input information into project tracking systems, customer updates, shared calendars, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Core hours </li></ul><ul><li>Days/times everyone should be in the office </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of regularly scheduled team meetings, 1:1 meetings, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Whether new employees have to work in the office for 3 mos/6 mos. first </li></ul><ul><li>Attendance at retreats </li></ul><ul><li>How decisions will be made and documented </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict-resolution procedures </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  17. 17. Managing a virtual team <ul><li>Key Components: </li></ul><ul><li>Execute a Virtual Teams Agreement </li></ul><ul><li>Realize management style influences outcome </li></ul><ul><li>Create a sense of place </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate deliberately </li></ul><ul><li>Set goals and track performance </li></ul><ul><li>Choose the right people </li></ul><ul><li>Global teams have extra needs </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  18. 18. Your management style matters <ul><li>Trust vs. Control </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>Where do you fit? </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  19. 19. The ubiquitous water cooler ©Life Meets Work, 2009
  20. 20. If I can’t see you… <ul><li>… how do I know you’re working? </li></ul><ul><li>The average office worker wastes 1.7 hours/day surfing the internet, socializing with co-workers, tending to personal business, and running errands. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough work: 17.7% </li></ul><ul><li>Hours too long: 13.9% </li></ul><ul><li>Underpaid: 11.8% </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of challenging work: 11.1% </li></ul>2007 Wasting Time Survey, ©Life Meets Work, 2009
  21. 21. Create a new sense of place <ul><li>Meet every morning on Campfire (group IM chat) to say good morning, socialize and talk about any pressing issues for the day. </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct virtual coffees/happy hours/birthday parties where no work discussion is allowed. </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage team members to post their photo, photo of their home office, pets, and info about their likes/dislikes/hobbies/etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Plan quarterly retreats devoted to team-building and getting to know each other. </li></ul><ul><li>Welcome new members in group conference calls. </li></ul><ul><li>Assign an onsite “buddy” to each virtual team member to keep them up on the latest gossip, happenings, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Celebrate successes, recognize great work, communicate with all team members electronically so remote workers aren’t left out of the loop. </li></ul><ul><li>Take 15 minute water cooler breaks during the day. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  22. 22. Deliberate communication <ul><li>“ Don’t spend more than 30 seconds being angry without telling someone.” </li></ul><ul><li>James Tyree, Chairman & CEO, Mesirow Financial </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  23. 23. Deliberate communication <ul><li>Set guidelines for how and when to communicate. </li></ul><ul><li>Be open and honest. </li></ul><ul><li>Greet every team member every day via IM, email, or phone. </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule a regular 1:1 meeting and stick to it. Don’t reschedule. </li></ul><ul><li>Cultivate diversity of opinion. </li></ul><ul><li>Record meetings for team members who miss. </li></ul><ul><li>Publish all team members’ contact info in an easily retrievable place. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider personality profiles and preferred communication styles of each team member. Customize your communication style to fit each employee. </li></ul><ul><li>Pay close attention to written communication. Look for emoticons, changes in tone or length of communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask about how team members are feeling. You don’t have the benefit of non-verbal cues, so you have to ask. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask more questions of virtual team members to be sure you know where they stand. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  24. 24. Technology for virtual teams <ul><li>Technology democratizes communication. </li></ul><ul><li>These tech tools facilitate communication for virtual teams: </li></ul><ul><li>IM (MSN, AOL, YAHOO) </li></ul><ul><li>Group Chat/IM (Campfire) </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul><ul><li>WIKI’s ( </li></ul><ul><li>Project Tracking System (Basecamp, WorkZone, FogBugz) </li></ul><ul><li>File Sharing (Google docs, Google calendar, Filesanywhere) </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Teleconferencing (VOIP to save $) </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual meeting software (gotomeeting) </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual whiteboard (Scriblink) </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  25. 25. Set goals and track performance <ul><li>Managing virtual teams means letting go of face time and shifting your orientation from “how” work gets done to “what” work gets done. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s about performance and results, so everyone must be clear about goals and expectations. </li></ul><ul><li>Both manager and team member share the responsibility for communicating the status of projects. </li></ul><ul><li>Team members hold themselves and each other accountable. </li></ul><ul><li>This creates transparency. Productivity increases because there’s nowhere to hide. The virtual worker either meets the deadline and produces quality work or doesn’t. As a manager, you’ll know either way. </li></ul><ul><li>Performance problems rise to the surface and are dealt with. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  26. 26. Performance tracking technology <ul><li>Technology assists this transparency. </li></ul><ul><li>From one dashboard, you can see each team members’ projects, tasks, contacts, to-do lists. </li></ul><ul><li>Late items are flagged, contingencies are visible and at any moment you can view whether a project or deliverable is in jeopardy. </li></ul><ul><li>You assign tasks, leave messages, share documents. </li></ul><ul><li>You document conversations, save contact and client information. </li></ul><ul><li>You track multiple projects, run reports by team member, by project, by late tasks, etc. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  27. 27. Choose the right people <ul><li>Some people are cut out for virtual teams, others are not. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider a candidate’s interests, personality, motivation to learn and improve, track record of working independently. </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know them: blogs they follow, leaders in the industry they look up to, books they enjoy. </li></ul><ul><li>They must demonstrate that they can work well by themselves and enjoy it. </li></ul><ul><li>Key traits: Self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-disciplined, strong work ethic </li></ul><ul><li>Traits to avoid: Needs direction, wants peer approval, likes structure, looks to work for social life </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  28. 28. Tips for global teams <ul><li>In addition to the general advice for managing virtual teams: </li></ul><ul><li>Enable team members from other countries to communicate during meetings. </li></ul><ul><li>For team members who are less confident with their English, invite them to submit their comments via email at the end of the meeting. </li></ul><ul><li>Rotate meeting times, so everyone takes turns being up in middle of the night. </li></ul><ul><li>Create deadline days for when work is due. The “end of the week” means something different to other cultures and in other time zones. </li></ul><ul><li>Pick a time zone that is the standard for meeting times, deadlines, etc. to avoid confusion. </li></ul><ul><li>File sharing and project management software is critical for tracking customer notes, daily projects, and creates a seamless transition from one “shift” to the next. </li></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009
  29. 29. Additional Resources <ul><li>Co-working sites: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>See list at </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Regus-individual and corporate subscriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For more information about virtual teams: </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Resources from Sun Microsystems </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>©Life Meets Work, 2009