This is the second in a two part blog post on Telework and Virtual Team Strategy with video interview of Phil Montero of Montero Consulting and YouCanWorkFromAnywhere.com fame.
Phil and I get into non-tech elements critical for success when Leading virtual or distributed workforces. This generates the intangibles necessary for leaders and why authoritarian leadership models won’t fly in a purely virtual situation.
Check out the video to learn Phil’s gadgetry and secret collaborative software weapon that you can get for the price of…FREE!
Creating a Virtual Environment for Success
Most American models of leadership still use the top-down, authoritarian style of communication when dealing with “subordinates”. We glorify the strong, brave, dictatorial styles of Jack Welch in business and Patton on the battlefield. Everything has its place and in the virtual landscape, the world has never been flatter! You cannot have an imposing, physical presence or command and control in the same way as you might when co-located with your staff. It’s too easy to simply tune out. They have to want to and enjoy working for you, and here is where the working conditions of 2011 are butting heads with the classic business-school management philosophy and hierarchical organization chart.
Phil suggests engaging in methods to relate informally and establish relationships that go beyond the board room. Dr. Karen Sobel Lojeski of Virtual Distance International calls this closing affinity distance, or building ways for people who may never see each other to bond and gain connection, and highlights this in her books Uniting the Virtual Workforce and Leading the Virtual Workforce. Use the company blog or informal social networks and events on Facebook or somewhere else like Virtual Happy Hours.
The Virtual Team Leader
“Become a question asker instead of an answer provider,” is how Phil describes the shift needed in leaders, be they team leaders or company CEOs, to gain top performance from the virtual workforce. This move to being a facilitator or helping supervisor is not new and reflects the Steven Covey Servant Leader principal, and many leaders of organizations already engage their co-located employees this way. By constantly asking questions about what the team needs–technologies, timezones, virtual pizza, different avatars during the virtual, online meetings (yes, I said it)–leaders not only find out information to foment the success of the team, but they manifest the old axiom…
Before they care how much you know, they need to know how much you care.
That provides the will to be successful for you from the virtual team that perhaps has only seen you on Skype or from a headshot in the company newsletter, and that desire to succeed for the leader will enable the virtual tools we talk about in these interviews to really work magic; cutting costs, projects coming in ahead of time instead of hopelessly delayed, ecstatic customers–all the stuff that you wanted when you began.