How to Lead Effective Virtual Teams [Tips & Book Review]
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Leading Effective Virtual Teams is an odd book. It’s a bit like a series of very dense magazine articles as every chapter is heavy with bullet-pointed lists of top tips and guidelines.
It reads very differently to other books, but it’s very effective given what Nancy M. Settle-Murphy wants to achieve, which is a “just-in-time” reference guide.
You can use the book as a resource to dip into when you hit problems or you can work through it methodically and apply the tips as they apply to your team.
There is a lot covered in the book, and it’s one of the harder books I have reviewed. Instead, in the style of the book itself I have decided to pull out some of my favourite points and advice.
Listen to Elizabeth speaking on a podcast about successfully leading remote teams.
Tips for managing team performance remotely
There is a useful section on managing team performance from afar: very helpful if you have direct line management or project management responsibility for individuals who do not work with in the same location as you.
Building trust in virtual teams can be a bit of an issue at the start of a project, so having a set of solid strategies to get over that quickly is useful.
Settle-Murphy suggests that you gather performance feedback from an individual’s peers on the team as well as suppliers, third parties and other stakeholders.
She also has these suggestions.
- Listen out for subtle clues that may mean your team member feels like they need help but are to embarrassed (or busy, or shy) to ask for it.
- Come to each staff development session prepared.
- Ensure that team members feel accountable for their actions. (If they don’t, this guide to ensuring people take responsibility for their work might help)
- Stay off mute unless you are surrounded by ambient noise as it encourages you to focus.
Settle-Murphy writes: “If you’re part of a virtual team, you learn to develop a sixth sense for knowing when dysfunction has crept in.”
Watch out for lack of interest, failure to attend meetings, lack of interaction, failure to hit deadlines, and failure to accept that anything is wrong.
Read next: Tips for Effective Virtual Meetings
Good guidelines; easy-to-use tips
There are lots of tips in here. Basically it feels like just tips, but good ones, and not ones you have heard hundreds of times before.
It does feel like there is a small amount of repetition though. For example, the ambient noise tip turns up again in a later chapter.
If you implemented half of this stuff you’d be well on the way to a high performing virtual team.
Why does that matter? As Settle-Murphy says:
Whatever the goal – whether it is to make well-informed decisions, generate innovative solutions to vexing problems, or to create a shared strategy – all virtual meetings accomplish the most in the least time when the right people come together for a focused conversation.
There are a lot of bullet points and tables so it is easy to read. The book is neatly organised so you can flip to the chapter that relates to the challenge you are facing.
If you work in a virtual team, and it doesn’t have to be international, then this is a great desk reference and you’ll definitely find ideas in here to make you virtual meetings more successful.
“Stay off mute unless you are surrounded by ambient noise as it encourages you to focus.” I’m going to start doing this.
Good luck! I find that really hard to do, but it’s worth giving it a very good go.
It’s great to see that you have reviewed my friend Nancy Settle-Murphy’s book. It draws from her excellent blog and newsletter articles over the years and that explains the different layout!
Did you notice the foreword? I was honoured when she asked me to write it.
Your readers grappling with virtual working might enjoy my free virtual working summit from 23rd November for 2 weeks. They can find it at http://www.virtualworkingsummit.com
Thanks so much for reviewing my book! It is, as you suggested, a compendium of tips that people can scan on a “just-in-time” basis. I’m actually considering a follow-up book, given all that I have learned since that one, but not quite yet.
My friend Penny Pullan let me know about your review, and now I know all about you, too! And I am glad I do!
A follow up book sounds great! There is so much to say about this topic. I’ve added your book to the Further Reading section of my new book as well, so I’m glad to have read it and to have met you (virtually!).
Hello Penny – I had totally forgotten the fact you wrote the foreword! I read the book a while ago and have only just got round to writing up my notes. Thanks for the suggestion of the virtual working summmit. I have attended in previous years and it’s a really good resource for people working with virtual teams. I recommend it!