COVID-19 has put loads of bosses and managers in a totally new situation – managing virtual teams.
While it’s dope that remote work lets you snag the best talent from all over the world and create an epic team, it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Managing a virtual team comes with a ton of responsibilities, like making sure your team is doing well and keeping tabs on their progress to hit goals.
If you’re feeling lost in this uncharted territory, signing up for a Udemy course on “how to manage and influence your virtual team” could be the answer you’re looking for. TheIToons is not affiliated to Udemy or the author in any way.
As a manager of a remote team, I’m no stranger to the unexpected obstacles that come with the job. To help me lead and support my team better, I decided to enroll in Mr. Hassan Osman’s course, “How to Manage and Influence Your Virtual Team.” In this blog post, I want to share my thoughts on this course.
In this review, I’ll cover the main topics with what I learned, and my final thoughts on the course. So, let’s jump right in.
How do you communicate effectively with your remote team?
Communication is super important for virtual teams to work well together.
But it’s not as easy as it is in a physical office. When you’re working remotely, messages can get mixed up and cause problems that slow everyone down.
Sometimes you can’t talk face-to-face either, which can make things harder. That’s why it’s important for leaders to communicate clearly and precisely with their teams.
The initial module of the course focuses on this topic, which is subsequently explored in greater depth in the following chapters:
Communication is everything
The first chapter talks about how important it is for virtual teams to communicate well.
Good communication makes the team feel like they belong and work together better. But if communication isn’t good, it can break the team apart.
So, leaders need to be really careful when managing virtual teams. This chapter explains why communication is so important, the problems that come up when you manage a virtual team, and the issues that virtual teams have to deal with.
The pyramid of communication
I really like the part of the course that talks about how technology helps us communicate.
There’s a pyramid that shows different types of communication and how they help us stay close to our team.
The higher up the pyramid you go, the more “personal” the way of communicating is, and that helps the team work better together.
For example, email is at the bottom of the pyramid, while talking face-to-face is at the top. Osman explains how using a mix of different types of communication can help the team work together better.
The curse of knowledge
“Curse of knowledge” refers to how communication is affected by psychology.
The way a manager shares their knowledge can greatly impact how clear the message is. The first step is acknowledging that the curse of knowledge applies to every form of communication, including emails, phone calls, presentations, meetings, and more.
For example, when discussing a technical term, a manager may assume that their team knows what it means, but the listeners might not understand it, leading to poor communication.
In this section, you’ll learn how to get everyone on the same page and effectively share your knowledge with them.
The 3 responses to the questions
Hassan Osman discusses three ways to respond to a query: good, bad, and ugly. The “good” approach is the best because it reduces confusion and saves time.
He gives specific examples of how to always use the “good” method when answering questions, showing that employees are valued and their opinions matter. This finishes the first chapter, and we can now move on to the next one.
Principles of Behaviour change
Here are the chapters you’ll learn about in this module:
Intro to the principles of behaviour change
Here are the four principles:
- Deadlines are powerful.
- Delegating responsibilities is powerful.
- Having specific tasks is powerful.
- Written communication is powerful.
Deadlines are powerful
Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means that if you have a task to complete, and you have a lot of time to complete it, you may find yourself taking longer than necessary to complete it.
This can lead to procrastination, where you delay starting the task until closer to the deadline.
For example, if you have a task due at the end of next week, you may find that it takes the entire week and a half to complete instead of just one or two days.
However, setting a deadline can be a useful tool to help you manage your time better. Deadlines can motivate you to focus and complete the task in a more efficient manner.
By setting a specific deadline, you are giving yourself a clear goal to work towards, which can help you stay on track and avoid procrastination.
Delegating responsibilities is powerful
To enhance teamwork and productivity, it is crucial to communicate effectively and assign tasks clearly. Using direct language and assigning tasks to specific individuals rather than groups can help achieve this goal.
This approach has two advantages:
First, it promotes internal consistency by ensuring that one person is accountable for completing the task.
When a task is assigned to a group, it can result in a diffusion of responsibility, where everyone assumes that someone else will take care of it.
This can lead to delays or even the task not being completed at all. Assigning tasks to individuals helps avoid this issue and increases the likelihood of completing the task on time.
Here is interesting article I wrote on what is the #1 bottleneck for growth of your agency
Second, assigning tasks to individuals allows team members to work on tasks they enjoy, resulting in a happier team.
When team members work on tasks that align with their interests and skills, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. This can lead to better quality work and a more productive team.
If a task requires multiple people, it is important to assign primary responsibility to one person and secondary responsibilities to others.
This ensures that the task has a clear leader who is accountable for completing it, while the others can support and assist as needed.
By using direct language and assigning tasks to specific individuals, teams can avoid confusion and ambiguity, promote internal consistency, and create a happier and more productive team.
Having specific tasks is powerful
When it comes to assigning tasks to your team, two of the most critical factors are clarity and directness. These factors are essential to the success of the project, as they help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
To avoid confusion and miscommunication, it is crucial that you are clear about what you want before asking for a specific task.
This means taking the time to clarify your own goals and requirements before communicating them to your team. If you are unsure about what you want, it is best to figure it out before assigning the task.
To effectively communicate your expectations, it is essential to be concise and straightforward. Use clear and precise language to convey your expectations.
Getting straight to the point will help ensure that your team understands your instructions and can complete the task effectively.
Overall, by prioritizing clarity and directness when assigning tasks to your team, you can help to set everyone up for success.
By taking the time to clarify your own goals and requirements, and by communicating them effectively to your team, you can ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals, and that the project is completed on time and to the best of everyone’s ability.
Written communication is powerful
As a team, documenting each member’s tasks can offer several advantages.
One of the most significant benefits is that it helps establish clear priorities and deadlines.
By documenting tasks, it reduces the chance of critical tasks being overlooked, which in turn increases overall productivity.
Furthermore, documenting tasks enables team members to have a better understanding of what needs to be done, and by whom.
This level of clarity leads to increased organization, improved task management, and enhanced overall productivity, as mentioned in this chapter.
Tactics of influence and persuasion
This section is about ways to motivate and encourage team members to complete tasks effectively. It covers ways to influence team members to take action and get the results you want.
Chapters 2 & 3: Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence
The next two chapters will explain six principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, and Consensus.
Osman does an excellent job of connecting these theories and principles to real-life situations. Using these principles can help you better manage your team and have a greater impact on them.
For instance, by showing respect and appreciation to your team members, you can trigger the principle of reciprocity. Osman offers valuable advice on how to use each principle to influence your virtual team members successfully.
The influential power of the word
Ellen Langer’s famous Xerox study emphasizes the importance of the word ‘because.’ Mr. Osman connects this idea to managing remote teams, demonstrating how giving a reason can increase team efficiency.
When employees know the reason for a task, they are more likely to complete it well.
By explaining why a task is important, such as “Finish this blog by Monday so it can be published as a pillar page by Wednesday,” team members will be motivated to put in the effort to get it done.
6 steps for ensuring commitment
As a leader, it’s important to make sure tasks are completed on time. Follow these six steps to ensure 100% commitment from the person assigned to a task:
- Get the person to agree to the task.
- Establish a specific time frame for completion.
- Create a sense of obligation.
- Emphasize the importance of the task.
- Confirm the action.
- Show appreciation in the follow-up process.
How to know what they are thinking
As a leader, it’s important to prioritize your employees’ well-being.
This means understanding their thoughts and perspectives, which is just as important as ensuring tasks are completed. You can gain insight into your employees’ minds by asking four questions in a simple two-step process.
Step 1: Ask “What would it take for you to love this idea?” and “How do you think I can make this better?”
Step 2: Ask “What would it take for you to be excited about this?” and “What would you do differently if you notice?”
By asking these questions, you can better understand your employees and create a more positive and productive work environment by gathering valuable feedback from them.
How to lead meetings in remote teams effectively
As we work from different locations, we need to have more meetings to plan projects, discuss agendas, and stay connected. But, there are two main problems with most of these meetings.
The first problem is that there are too many meetings, including project planning, agenda discussions, and one-on-ones to stay connected and address concerns.
The second problem is that many of these meetings are not effective and do not achieve their intended purpose.
In this document, Osman provides an introduction and covers the following chapters:
Before the meeting
First, figure out what the meeting needs to be about. Second, decide what you want to achieve. Third, choose who should come to the meeting. Fourth, make a plan for what you’ll talk about during the meeting. Finally, invite everyone to the meeting and remind them about it if needed.
During the meeting
Here are 5 steps to make sure everyone stays on track during the meeting.
First, choose someone to lead the meeting.
Second, go through the plan for the meeting.
Third, stick to the topic and don’t go off track.
Fourth, write down what you talk about during the meeting.
Finally, end the meeting with a summary.
After the meeting
First, talk about what you talked about during the meeting and what tasks need to be done.
Second, follow up with everyone after the meeting to make sure everyone knows what they need to do.
Meeting scheduling guidelines
This section explains how to schedule meetings in a good way.
It covers four things you should do to make sure you don’t have too many meetings and you can be productive.
I found this part really helpful for organizing my meetings and saving time.
Choosing and Evaluating the Right Technology
When it comes to managing virtual teams, selecting the appropriate technology is crucial.
We need to ensure that the tools we use are helping us build a productive team and not causing more problems.
This can be a challenging task for remote team leaders, but Osman provides guidance to help.
Why choosing the perfect tool is hard
Choosing the right technology can be difficult for a few reasons.
First, new technologies are constantly being developed.
Second, the features of these tools are always changing.
Third, there is often overlap in features between different tools.
Fourth, budget and time constraints can also make it challenging to make a decision.
The 7 golden rules for choosing your technology
To help with this decision-making process, Osman presents seven golden rules for selecting the most suitable technology.
These rules include using a minimal number of tools, opting for the least number of vendors, avoiding popular technologies, choosing task-specific software, seeking feedback from your team, selecting tools you are familiar with, and remembering that no tool is perfect.
The ultimate list of virtual team tools
Finally, Osman provides a comprehensive list of over 40 technology tools that are essential for effective team management. These tools are categorized based on their functionality and include
- Project management tools,
- Document storage/file sharing tools,
- Meeting tools,
- High-end video conferencing tools,
- Video and audio conferencing tools,
- Instant messaging tools,
- Document co-creation tools,
- Social network tools, and
- Scheduling tools.
Creating Trust in Remote Work
Trust is an essential factor in team success. A lack of trust can negatively affect team morale, engagement, and productivity. In this module, Osman explains how to build trust in remote teams.
After explaining the negative impact of mistrust in virtual teams, Osman covers the following topics in this module:
The Secret Formula for Trust
Managers who are used to working with teams in physical offices may have concerns about their employees’ productivity and advancement. However, a lack of trust is not good for a healthy work environment. In this chapter, leaders will learn a single-word principle for enhancing trust.
How to Increase Reliability
Ensuring employees are reliable in a virtual setting is different from a physical workplace. In this chapter, we will explore four strategies to enhance dependability.
How to Increase Likability
Boosting likability within a virtual team can be achieved by implementing five primary tactics.
The first is to establish a personal connection,
the second is to encourage social engagement,
the third is to maintain a high level of communication,
the fourth is to have face-to-face meetings,
and the fifth is to maintain a positive attitude.
In short, managing and influencing a virtual team requires a different approach compared to managing an in-person team.
Here is the summary
- Communication is important. Set up regular check-ins and updates through email, chat, video conferencing, or phone to keep everyone connected and informed.
- Establish clear objectives and expectations for your virtual team. Make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and communicate deadlines and milestones.
- Use technology to enhance communication and collaboration. Employ resources like project management software, shared calendars, and video conferencing.
- Build trust with your team. Get to know them and foster a sense of unity. Trust is built through consistent communication and meeting commitments.
- Encourage collaboration. Create opportunities for team members to collaborate, exchange ideas, and provide feedback to each other.
- Recognize and reward your team for their hard work and achievements. Celebrate milestones and let them know their contributions are valued.
By prioritizing communication, setting clear expectations, using technology, building trust, promoting collaboration, and recognizing your team’s contributions, you can effectively manage and influence your virtual team towards success.