Part II of Trellis’ interview with Pernilla Roesoe, Managing Director of Itim International’s Copenhagen office: The challenges of leading at a distance

September 19, 2011

Q: What are some of the best practices for leading global virtual teams?
here are best practices, which can be employed to maximize the benefits of global virtual teams while minimizing the challenges, and they relate to:

Leadership: Global virtual teams require strong and dedicated leadership. Effective distance leaders possess emotional intelligence and take the role as mentors by showing concern, understanding and empathy for their team members; they listen and exhibit patience and sensitivity. They also instill a high degree of trust. Trust is one of the only mechanisms; a distance leader has to manage people on virtual teams. People, who do not trust each other, do not perform together!

In addition, providing training in the “Leading at Distance” discipline is pivotal for securing high-performance of global virtual teams. Distance leaders need to have a strong understanding of the critical issues and best practices related to distance leadership, as well as a keen understanding of when to use which tools to optimize the performance of global virtual teams. Grounded learning through simulation exercises and cases make up a good platform for effective global distance leaders.

Team: Successful distance leadership requires carefully thinking about team-configuration, selecting team-members, creating a salient team-identity, clarifying roles, creating trust and managing any conflict under way. In addition, it requires establishing team legitimacy in the organization by keeping strong links with parent organizations, having supportive sponsors and identifying allies.

Communication Technology: Effective and successful global virtual teams require establishing the optimal mix of communication technology. The challenge for distance leaders and their teams is to know when to use the different media types for optimal communication and collaboration. Providing training in the use of the different communication technologies and continue to do so as new tools are developed is pivotal, as is of course providing technical support.

Goal: A High-performing global virtual team requires a distance leader, who clearly establishes team mission, goal and objectives, as well as, who makes sure goals are clear and broken down. The goal is the only thing the global virtual team is able to navigate from.

Finally, the most important piece of advice I can offer is to, ‘Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate!’ (However, watch out for communication overload). It is almost a contradiction in terms, but the global distance leader, who is not on site, needs to be the most “visible” of all leaders!