Collaboration across distances can make it difficult for teams to really bond. Successful managers create clear structures in their teams in order to overcome these distances and achieve competitive advantages.
In his white paper, team leadership expert Conrad Fassnacht shows managers how they can remotely lead their teams in a goal-oriented and efficient way, and unleash creativity and innovation.
In this white paper, you will learn how to:
Build trust and establish transparency, even from a distance
Establish efficient and effective team communication
Garner the support of everybody and build a viable team
Choose the appropriate communication tools
Leadership The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Sponsored by GoToMeeting Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Table of Contents Introduction....................................................................................................3 1. The Fundamentals of Virtual Leadership...............................................4 1.1 Leading On-Site Versus Leading Remotely....................................4 1.2 Virtual Leadership - a Model...........................................................8 2. Success Factors for Virtual Leadership...............................................10 2.1 Success Factor "Human Aspects.................................................10 2.2 Success Factor "Virtual Management - Processes and Organisation"..............................................................11 2.3 Success Factor "Technology and Methodological Skills".............13 3. Communication Media and Virtual Leadership Presence..................14 3.1 The Three C's of Virtual Leadership.......................................................14 3.2 The Media Richness Model: The Choice of Communication Channels...........................................15 3.3 Online Meetings and Web Conferences........................................17 Summary......................................................................................................19 About Konrad Fassnacht..............................................................................20 Contact.........................................................................................................20 2 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Introduction Virtual leadership, i.e. team leading from a distance using modern communication media, has become quite commonplace in many companies and organisations. Managers oversee their employees and work processes remotely, location-independent teams and work groups collaborate with each other and new technologies support the communication, coordination and collaboration processes. Now it is important to reduce the challenges associated with remote leadership and virtual collaboration, of which there are many. Virtual collaboration needs clear structures, depending on the individual situation. There are three main success factors that every manager needs to take into account - people, virtual management, and technologies and methodological skills. It is up to the virtual manager to work with his employees on ways to define and implement these structures. This white paper describes the basic principles a virtual manager needs to consider when he wants to improve his remote leadership skills and support remote team collaboration. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership The Fundamentals of Virtual Leadership On-Site Versus Remote Leadership Virtual leadership, or leading from a distance, is not really a new discipline. There has been a need to lead people remotely since ancient times. The Roman emperor, for example, controlled his empire and his governors directly from Rome. The communication medium was the mounted messenger, who maintained contact between Rome and the provinces. Likewise in the centuries that followed, right up to the present day - leading from a distance was always an issue. However, the developments of the past 20 years require that we need to give remote leadership a lot more attention. Drivers of this development include globalisation, evergrowing competition, changing markets and much more. New technologies support this process. Managers who lead their teams remotely must meet the challenges of this situation. They need to examine and adapt their leadership practices in order to transform their virtual team into a high-performance team. Sometimes just small adjustments need to be made, but occasionally big steps are necessary. Two examples illustrate this more clearly. 4 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership • In today's workplace, trust plays an important role. If the employees are working on-site, the manager is able to directly promote trust, identify trust issues and take appropriate measures if there is a lack of trust. When it comes to virtual leadership, trust plays an even more important role, because the control and management possibilities are much more limited, and the manager has to rely more on his employees than in an on-site situation. At the same time it is more difficult to build trust - and to keep it. Also, detecting trust issues requires a high degree of empathy, sensitivity and communication. In short: Trust should not be underestimated. Many virtual managers are convinced that "we're pretty solid as far as trust is concerned". And in fact, successful collaboration builds trust. But task-oriented trust is fragile. In difficult situations, for example project crises or low sales, task-oriented trust often falls short. Conflicts and other interpersonal difficulties arise ("We're doing what we can, but what are they doing to bail us out ?") to exacerbate an already difficult situation. One of the important tasks of a virtual manager is to also build and maintain trust on a personal level within his teams and workgroups. Any trust issues need to be promptly detected, and appropriate countermeasures taken as necessary. Please note: Trust is an important factor when leading remotely. However, in standard literature it is often overemphasised, so that other factors appear to have less importance. Trust is just one of several factors that contribute to successful virtual leadership. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership • In ancient times, the messenger on horseback was the main communication device. Today's virtual manager has a variety of other, more efficient media at his disposal. Telephone and email are available nearly everywhere. In some cases, these two media may suffice. For many tasks in today's workplaces, telephone and email still have some of the "charm of the mounted courier." But these tasks can be managed more effectively by other types of media. It is the virtual manager's job to make himself familiar with other important means of communication, so that his team is able to use the right tools for the right purposes. That doesn't mean that the virtual leader has to be an IT expert. Rather, his situation is similar to driving a car. A motorist also does not necessarily need to be a car mechanic. It is enough for him to know what types of cars there are, their differences, which types are suitable for his purpose and how to drive one. Leading from a distance is therefore not completely unlike leading on- site. Nonetheless, there are differences, so that managers need to further develop and improve their leadership skills in order to lead remotely with the same success as leading on-site. Two mundane-sounding, yet central elements play a crucial role and should be carefully considered when leading remotely. • The first central element is the distance, meaning the distance between manager and employees. In the context of virtual leadership, there are various concepts of distance, two of which will be mentioned here. The physical distance between manager and employee is the spatial distance in metres and kilometres. This affects the frequency of personal meetings with the employees or the frequency of team meetings. The physical distance is a fixed factor and can't be reduced without transferring employees. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership The perceived distance is the distance two people feel lies between them, in this case between manager and employee. It's up the manager to reduce the perceived distance. This not only applies to the distance between manager and employee, but also to the distance between the members of a team or workgroup. The key to reducing the perceived distance is to maintain personal relationships and to strengthen the cohesion in the team or workgroup. Practical tip: As a rough rule of thumb for reducing the perceived distance, the manager should organise the team collaboration in such a manner that technical issues are handled mostly online, using the appropriate communication tools. In personal meetings - and also in online meetings - personal issues and team issues should be prioritised. • The second central element of virtual leadership is the "unknown." From the distance any situation is only partially visible; much is left in the dark. Many leaders attempt to compensate through increased control. This is quite tricky because we need to distinguish between two levels. In order to reduce the unknown and achieve good results, an effective controlling process needs to be implemented. • Employees, however, cannot be controlled. In this case, control must be replaced by trust. • There is a delicate balance between successful control and trustful cooperation. A second important aspect for reducing the unknown in a distance situation is communication. It is possible to shed more light onto the unknown through appropriate and targeted communication with employees. Any manager should know that he and his employees are sitting in the same boat. In turn, employees usually like to know, what happens at the top. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Virtual Leadership - a Model 1. As we have pointed out, leading remotely is not that fundamentally different from leading on-site. However, both distance and the unknown add additional levels of complexity to the leadership situation that a successful virtual leader needs to take into account. In a simple model developed by Fassnacht Consulting & Training, the different levels of virtual collaboration are structurally organised (see Fig. 1). 2. At the lowest level, virtual management is supported by information and communication technology. This is where the IT department is located, which is responsible for the setup and operation of the infrastructure. The virtual manager should at least have some basic knowledge of IT so that he's familiar with fundamental IT concepts, e.g. firewalls, browsers, USB interfaces, smart phones, tablets PCs, etc. 3. The second level is application expertise. This is about being able to properly utilise available IT resources, e.g. working with a smart phone or specific communication software. 4. Levels three through five constitute the three fundamental success factors of virtual leadership and distance collaboration. The third level describes the methodological competence. The aim here is to utilise the available technologies methodically and purposefully. How do I utilise email in the most effective and efficient way? How do I organise an online meeting? How do I operate a team wiki? This level deals with these and other questions. 5. The fourth level describes virtual management, i.e. remotely designing and controlling processes. This level includes, for example, organising and implementing on-site and online meetings, controlling the workflow in virtual teams, organising the communication processes, etc. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership 6. The core tasks of leadership begin with the fifth level. This level is all about the human aspect. How do I motivate team members when I'm not present? How do I delegate tasks remotely? How do I manage trust, how do I create virtual presence, how do I recognise and resolve conflicts from a different location? These are a few examples of the issues at this level. 7. At the top level we find the actual tasks and activities that need to be performed, the results of which fall under the leader's responsibility. Virtual Leadership Information and Communication Technology Fig. 1: The Virtual Leadership Model (©2013, Fassnacht Consulting & Training The six levels need to be efficiently and effectively designed as a whole, so that the tasks of virtual leadership and remote collaboration can be successfully achieved. Additionally, the levels must be properly interconnected and interlocked with one another in order to generate the best results. If the virtual leader is able to align all processes to this model in the proper way, he'll be on the right path to build a virtual high-performance team. In the next section we describe the three key success factors in more detail. 9 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Success Factors for Virtual Leadership Virtual Leadership is supported by three key success factors: the human aspects, virtual management to control processes and organisation as well as technologies and expertise for the methodically correct use of technology. In practise, these three success factors are closely linked and should be viewed as a whole. However, for the sake of clarity, we'll look at the three factors separately. 2.1 Success Factor "Human Aspects" Leading is all about people. Leading remotely is no different. Regrettably due to the distance between management and employees, the human factor often takes a back seat. Factual issues predominate at the expense of maintaining personal relationships. For example, very often virtual teams have on-site meetings that are overloaded with work-related topics - which could be just as easily dealt with remotely. On-site meetings should primarily be used to deal with team issues or issues affecting individual employees. Most work-related issues can be addressed through the use of appropriate technologies. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Typical questions related to this success factor are: • Are there any trust issues in the team? Do the team members trust their team leader, trust each other, trust the "system", etc.? • Are the individual team members and the team as a whole motivated enough? How can I as the leader motivate them? • Are there any conflicts that need to be resolved? • Are there any cliques? Are there feelings of isolation? • Do the team members have everything they need for an efficient and effective collaboration? • Are there any annoyances or complaints? • What kind of information would the employees like to receive directly from the manager? What do they need to understand the information? • Are the objectives still clear, and do we have a common understanding of our goal? 2.2 Success Factor "Virtual Management - Processes and Organisation" Virtual teams require clear processes and the collaboration within the team must be very clearly organised. The primary reason for this is that there are much less opportunities for informal communication. Brief clarifying discussions that take place in passing, in the hallway, during lunch, across the desk, etc. are difficult to carry over to virtual communication. Of course, you can always pick up the phone or arrange a spontaneous online meeting. But fact is, due to the lack of direct contact, the communication will be somewhat limited. Here are some important components of this success factor: • Appropriate team rules provide orientation for virtual teams. What is expected of me? What can I expect from others, and what not? How do we behave in certain situations? How do we communicate with one another? These questions and more can be easily managed. The emphasis is on "can." Team rules should not be stipulated by the virtual leader. In this case, the manager is just another member of the team. Of course, at one point or another he can provide background information of which the team has no knowledge. But the rules of the team should be laid down by the team itself. Here we are not talking about a management tool, but a tool for the team to manage itself. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership When developing team rules, it's a good idea to involve an external consultant with extensive experience in virtual teamwork. • Remote Employees must have a high degree of independence and autonomy to relatively self-sufficiently press ahead with the work. The task of the virtual leader is to provide the framework for team independence and autonomy and to develop the employees to fill out that framework. • In virtual teams, there is usually a greater degree of non-transparency in the work routines as is to be found in traditional on-site teams. It is often not fully understood, who does what, why, and with whom, and how work routines are related. For that reason, the work routines in virtual teams should be expressed as transparently as possible. This prevents duplication of work, builds synergies and allows team members to learn from each other—the benefits of which shouldn't be underestimated. • The virtual leader needs to involve his team as much as possible in decision-making processes, internal communication, information flow, etc. Again, the main reason for this approach is the lack of direct communication. But there are additional advantages. Involving employees is an important motivating factor and helps to unleash a virtual team's creativity and power of innovation. These are just a few components. Depending on the team, its objectives, its structure etc., the virtual leader must consider many other factors. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership 2.3 Success Factor "Technology and Methodological Skills" Technology and its use is the third important factor for success in relation to virtual leadership and remote collaboration. Since the mounted messenger has served his purpose, and telephone and email often have their limits as well, other technologies need to be considered, such as virtual online meetings. These tools must be technically robust, easy to use and readily available. Modern tools such as Citrix GoToMeeting meet these requirements. When deploying technologies to support virtual collaboration, we need to strike a balance between two aspects: • synchronous, concurrent collaboration using tools such as telephone, video conferencing, online meetings, etc. • asynchronous, time-delayed collaboration using tools such as email, shared drives and groupware In virtual high performance teams, both aspects need to be equally taken into account. Unfortunately, the main focus often lies on the synchronous components, whereas email often is the only asynchronously used tool. However, in the context of remote leading and virtual collaboration most of the work involved occurs asynchronously. That's why both aspects should be equally considered. Whereas the technology is now mature and its use can be learned quickly the methodical deployment of the tools presents a far greater challenge. Manager and team should jointly decide when and which technology should be used in which way to achieve the desired objectives. Many virtual power teams have established clear rules - often in the form of a communication matrix - regarding the efficient and effective use of technology. Training sessions and workshops are a great way to provide the necessary methodological skills. and Virtual Leadership Presence Communication tools play an important role in virtual collaboration. They not only serve to convey tasks, query results, eliminate ambiguities, etc., they also support the virtual leader in demonstrating virtual leadership presence. Virtual leadership presence means that employees know that their leader is there for them, that he is easy to reach, that he is aware of the issues surrounding remote work, genuinely listens to their problems and sufficiently communicates with them. Reason enough to look more closely at communication media. 3.1 The Three C's of Virtual Leadership The term "communication media" is too vague for a more detailed consideration. To purposefully use the right media, we need to differentiate between three terms - the three C's of virtual leadership (see Fig. 2). Communication: Mutual exchange of information, including explanations of the information, opinions, views, etc. Coordination: Communication for the purpose of coordinating and organising Collaboration: Communication for the purpose of collaboration in order to successfully perform tasks together For the remainder of this section, we will continue to use the established term "communication media", however we are always referring to the three C's media. Fig. 2: The Three C's of Virtual Leadership 14 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership 3.2 The Media Richness Model: The Choice of Communication Channel Many virtual teams find it difficult to decide which communication media they should use. Beginning with the three standard tools - on-site meeting (which should be regarded as a tool in this context), telephone and email - it is often not clear or not clearly stipulated when each medium should be used. Both the efficiency and effectiveness of communication suffer as a result. By adding more tools, the decision-making becomes considerably more complicated. A simple model to regulate the use of media for virtual collaboration and in virtual teams is the media richness model (see Fig. 3). It states that the more complex the communication situation, the more complex the communication medium which needs to be used. However, it is difficult to assess when a communication situation is more or less complex, that's why the model is less suitable for daily operations. But it is suitable when a team stipulates communication rules and in this context assesses the complexity of certain communication situations. A common problem in virtual teams is that the team only works with the three aforementioned standard tools. In that case, only certain areas of communication complexity are covered. If there is a lot of communication in the complexity level that is not covered, it is likely that the communication is insufficient. In these cases, the lack of online meetings or groupware tools quickly leads to inefficient and ineffective communication. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Face to Face Meeting Video Conference Online Meeting Conference Call Collaborative Software or Groupware Discussion Forums Email Document Management Complex Communication Fig. 3: Media Richness Model Please note that this is just a model that can help to roughly estimate the complexity of the communication situation. 16 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership ml j 3.3 Online Meetings and Web Conferences Online meetings and web conferences are among the most important forms of virtual collaboration. In an online meeting, a small group or a team collaborates interactively using tools such as Citrix GoToMeeting. When the tool is used to disseminate information to a large group of people, it is referred to as a web conference. In practise, these two terms are often used interchangeably or even reversed, so the team should define clear and consistent terms. In addition to virtual team meetings, such tools offer a variety of additional possibilities that noticeably enhance virtual collaboration. Some of these possibilities are discussed below. • Meetings in larger groups Ideally, online meetings should have no more than a maximum of 8 to 10 participants. (Preferably less rather than more participants!) It is possible to host an online meeting with a larger group, but such a meeting needs to be organised differently than a meeting in a small group. Since there is less interactivity in a larger virtual group, the meeting should take no longer than 30 minutes. A presenter should support the speaker, intercept participants' text messages and, if necessary, respond to them or collect them and then pass them on to the speaker. It goes without saying that both smaller and larger meetings need to be planned carefully, including sending out invitations, creating an agenda and following up with participants after the meeting. • Virtual conferences or webinars Events that are larger than meetings are called virtual conferences or webinars. At a virtual conference, it is important to limit the time of each speaker, to have at least one presenter, to schedule appropriate breaks, to promote communication in an appropriate way, and to organise the conference in a highly professional manner. 1 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership • Input from experts Experts can give fresh impetus to an event, so they are often invited to participate in presentations and to give their input. However, these relatively short lectures involve travel time and costs, which makes it difficult to get an expert from the USA, for instance, to speak for just an hour at a meeting in Europe. But if you hold a web conference, it's easy. You can bring in experts from anywhere you like, and they don't even need to leave their desks. • Preparation of on-site meetings On-site meetings cost time and money, so they should be organised in a way that ensures their success. One or more online meetings can be really helpful to prepare those meetings. • Virtual training sessions Web conferences or webinars are being used more and more as virtual training sessions. In the same way, team training sessions can be also be organised and conducted as webinars. For formal training sessions it is necessary to hire coaches who are familiar with the webinar format. These are just a few examples for the use of online meetings and web conferences. In practise, the possibilities are almost unlimited. Even more unusual ideas, for example a virtual celebration following the successful completion of a project are quite feasible. As people get used to the concept, more ideas will come. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Summary Successful virtual leadership - leading employees and teams from distant locations - requires that leaders adapt their expertise. This adjustment especially involves the three key success factors of virtual leadership: people, virtual management, and technology and methodological skills. The main task of the leader is to remotely manage the employees in a way that ensures outstanding results despite the physical distance. The key is efficient and effective communication that helps to correctly assess any situation, so the appropriate actions can be taken. In addition to the employees, virtual management - i.e. establishing processes, as well as controlling and managing the collaboration - also plays an important role. The task of the virtual leader is to define - together with the staff and the team - the general framework for the virtual collaboration and to make it come to life. The third success factor that comes into play is technology. Whereas the management of information and communication technology is the responsibility of the IT department, the virtual leader needs to ensure that the appropriate technology is employed, and that employees have the necessary methodological skills to use the technology profitably. Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership About Konrad Fassnacht Konrad Fassnacht, managing director of Fassnacht Consulting & Training in Eppingen near Heilbronn, is an expert, consultant and coach in the areas of virtual leadership, distance collaboration and distance learning. He assists companies and organisations to establish virtual leadership and to organise remote collaboration in a focused and efficient manner. His focus is to release the creativity and innovative energy of virtual teams and work groups in order to improve financial results and achieve competitive advantages. Prior to founding Fassnacht Consulting & Training in 2005, Conrad Fassnacht was a manager for Siemens AG where he was responsible for the global Siemens Management Learning Programme's virtual projects and virtual learning processes. In cooperation with Duke University and Babson College in the USA, he implemented procedures and processes in relation to virtual collaboration and virtual leadership. 20 Virtual Leadership: The Fundamentals of Remote Team Leadership Resources for Achieving Business Agility For more white papers, case studies and on-demand webinars, visit www.gotomeeting.com/online/webinar/white-papers For best practises, company announcements and research about modern work styles, please visit blog.citrixonline.com GoToMeeting by CITRIX' Citrix GoToMeeting Our Citrix online service for better collaboration CITRIX3 Get your free trial version: United Kingdom: 0800 011 2120 htt p ://www. goto meet i ng. co. u k North America 7414 Hollister Avenue Goleta, CA93117 J.S.A. 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