I was in Budapest for a brief visit last Thursday. I spoke at the PMI Hungary Chapter’s Art of Projects conference to celebrate International Project Management Day. (See some photos here). I gave a presentation about social media use in virtual team and also led a workshop on virtual meetings.
My facilitator and I divided the audience and asked them questions about virtual teams.
Top issues in virtual communication
One group examined the top issues in virtual communication. They identified the main problem as a lack of visual feedback. It is impossible to see body language, which can indicate whether someone agrees with you or disagrees with you, or if they have a point to share. Relying on the voice alone can lead to confusion, if not deceitful.
Another issue they raised was the cultural differences within a multinational team. The group admitted that Hungarians were perceived by one another as creative, good communicators and a bit more optimistic than the average. They compared that to how foreigners perceive Hungarians.
Making a lot of noise and asking lots questions
Struggling to celebrate others’ success.
This was based upon feedback they received from non-Hungarian members in their international teams.
How to build trust within virtual teams
Another group examined how to build trust within virtual teams. They concluded that it’s the little things that count. It is important to allow the team time for small conversations and trivia, as well as to share small talk. This helps build trust among individuals. This can be done during conference calls, or online using collaboration tools for ‘chatter’.
Trust is built when everyone understands the rules and agrees to work together. It is easier to identify those who are not following the rules and where the boundaries are.
The group agreed that small gifts were a good way of building trust between the leader, the team and each other. The PMI Code of Ethics was briefly discussed. Everyone agreed that thanking the leader with a card and a piece of local chocolate was within the ethical boundaries of project management, but everyone was conscious of the need for transparency.
Demonstrating leadership within virtual teams
How can you show leadership when you don’t meet your team members? This was the third workshop group’s question.
They concluded that it was a good idea to take the time to get to understand your team through small talk conversations. This would help you build a positive relationship that will allow you to demonstrate leadership. They also stressed the importance to keep minutes and documentation organized after meetings. Facilitation skills were also important in virtual meetings.
They concluded that you can lead both virtual and face-to-face teams if you are a great leader. Leaders can lead in many settings if they are able to set the vision, motivate the team, and create participation in the project. They will use the tools they have, which might be different for a virtual team. However, a great leader is a good leader regardless of the environment.
What discussion points would have been raised if you were in this workshop?
You can go further:
Listen to Elizabeth speak on the PMO Office Hours podcast discussing leading remote projects.