Keys to Effectively Managing Virtual Project Teams
Consider this when thinking about managing virtual project teams: Think about how fortunate we are to live in an era where technology enables instantaneous connection – and information – even when colleagues are miles apart. The reality of working virtually is that critical meetings rarely take place face-to-face, and so managers must find the best way for balancing technology management and leadership and make optimum use of appropriate tools.
I recently ran a webinar, How to Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings, which focused on successful practices for managing virtual project teams and leading virtual meetings with full participant engagement. The webinar explored how to lead successful conference calls and provided guidelines for hosting/facilitating in the virtual setting. I ended the webinar with sharing tips for using common technology tools.
Given the volume of questions received from my webinar audience around managing virtual project teams, I believe this is a topic of keen interest, so I am dedicating this month’s posts to virtual meeting management. The next four blog posts will cover selected questions from participants about how to run effective virtual meetings.
Question #1: Participation in Virtual Teams
“Often meeting participants are not engaged and I end up doing most of the talking. How do I draw out people when I can’t read their body language?”
Answer: Participation in these virtual meetings is very important, Here are some tips to make your meetings effective:
• Ask all participants for agenda items; distribute the agenda before the meeting.
• Make sure all technical tools are set up before the meeting.
• When the conference begins, identify yourself(as host or facilitator), briefly name each attendee and introduce new colleagues. Acknowledge when anyone enters or departs the conference session.
• Pause at regular intervals; ask for others’ views and/or questions.
• Refrain from behavior that could alienate participants, such as long monologues or extended conversations with people sitting next to you.
• Look at the camera if speaking on video; talk to the phone when on a call, not at the people sitting in the same room.
• Be aware of lag time, and don’t jump to new points, which may confuse listeners.
• Just before adjourning the meeting, summarize main points and state action items. Distribute this information to all attendees and stakeholders who did not participate.
A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, pp 81-82.
Although these tips combine common sense and simple courtesy, the relentless pressure of meeting deadlines and juggling many priorities keep meeting leaders from taking that deep breath and focusing on these basic steps for managing virtual project teams. I know from my clients and from my own experience, that if you follow these tips, your meetings will be more productive, with colleagues more willing to contribute during these sessions.