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The Double Difficulty of Leading Virtual Teams

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by Jaakko Heikkilä in Blogi
joulukuu 5, 2017 0 comments

The number of geographically dispersed teams is growing constantly. Some of the virtual teams are mainly working on one location and they just have some remote members. Another set of teams operate in several countries and the team members only communicate through collaboration tools and video conferencing. For the companies, virtual teams often play key roles in guaranteeing business success. They are responsible for coordinating operations and delivering information across office locations.

Knowing the business importance of virtual teams, it is remarkable that their leaders are facing a double difficulty. The dynamics of a dispersed team is more vulnerable to communication and relationship problems and at the same time the team leaders have fewer tools to solve them than their colleagues who work in face-to-face teams.

Teams that communicate mostly by means of electronic tools have plenty of room for misunderstandings. Team members don’t always have sufficient amount of knowledge about the intentions and working styles of their colleagues to interpret their actions in a proper way. Face-to-face teams often have informal discussions where the team members create social cohesion and get to know each other’s preferences. If virtual teams do not have this opportunity, minor things easily lead to tensions between team members and thus to business losses.

Problems in team dynamics can cause inefficient working practices, if the team members do not know each other’s strengths. Distance can also lead to low performance and lack of commitment to share goals. This is especially true for the project teams, where the project is just one of the many duties the team members have.

The above mentioned issues occasionally occur also in face-to-face teams, but the leaders of virtual teams are less equipped for solving them. Developing team dynamics through commonly used ways, be it experiential group challenge, recreational social event or personality type workshop, requires physical presence. Organizing such activities for virtual teams is basically possible, but through travel expenses it often exceeds the budgets available for team building.

The new virtual teams should already at an early stage be equipped with mutual understanding and tools for solving minor inter-personal issues. At SmoothTeam we are happy to have been able to help with this.

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