I had the pleasure earlier this week of presenting Leading Virtual Teams: Managing People at a Distance, a webcast (now available on demand at that link) sponsored by the American Management Association. No stranger to webcasting, I was astonished at how many people showed up for the session - 1000 - the limit for such events with the system AMA uses.
Here's how it worked: several weeks ago, I was at AMA to work with the team putting the finishing touches on its new virtual teams course for which I've been the subject-matter expert. During the noon break, Terrence Seamon, who directs AMA's management education portfolio (and keeps Here We Are. Now What?, a wise blog), and I trundled down to AMA's audio recording studio, where he interviewed me while I held forth through a set of slides, which, through the miracle of technology, you can download here.
Then, this past Wednesday, Oct 8, as heralded in this previous post, I called into the studio while the able AMA folks webcast what we'd recorded. Those logging in could see the slides and hear Terry and me talking; I, meanwhile, was on the phone with the AMA people, who were making sure that everything was working smoothly. I could see the "control screen," so to speak, in Adobe Connect, the technology that made this possible, meaning that I could see the participants' screen, see their questions as they were being posted, and see the long list of names of those who'd logged in. Honestly, I thought about 30 or 40 people would show up. When the numbers started turning through the hundreds - and I could scroll through the names to see the organizations people were coming from, I was thrilled.
As we got closer to the end of the recording, Terry, David Summers (the producer), and I, along with Doug Sohn, Kevin Lee, and Angela Reba, who also were in the studio, chose the five best questions to answer. Not best in that the other questions weren't good but most general - and the ones that seemed to come up more than once:
- Is there any specific limit to the size of a virtual team?
- Are face-to-face connections not necessary anymore? My own experience is that, once I had face-to-face meetings, my virtual relationships were hundreds of times better than without that personal contact. As humans, are we not needing face-to-face especially in the anonymity of the internet?
- What are best practices for establishing and building trust on a virtual team when the team members will never met?
- Is there a noticed trend in 'adaptability' across industries? i.e., is a virtual team successful faster in a software development company vs. a company that is not necessarily known for using technology?
- Can you give us an example of "creating heat" in a conference call?
Then, when the session was over, Doug sent me all the questions people had submitted, along with the feedback from participants, which, in a more than hackneyed phrase, made my day.
The longer list of questions is fascinating and bears sharing, which is why I'm posting it here. AMA has asked me to answer these questions, which I intend to do, and will share that as well once "we" get around to doing so. Meanwhile, take a listen. I know some people who wanted to attend who couldn't get in due to the "sold out" (technically, it was free) nature of the event but, bless the interwebs, here it is. Please let me know what you think. Here, then, the longer list of 33 questions, which I've culled and edited from a still-longer list. Thanks, everyone!
Questions from 1000 Attendees
1. How do you tell people nicely that they are just talking too much?
2. How do you get management to trust that if you are a remote worker you are REALLY doing your work?
3. What is the best way for a virtual manager to manage conflict between members of the workgroup?
4. How can you "level the playing field" when it's just 1 or 2 people who are not co-located?
5. What are the ways to make performance appraisals effective when done remotely for the virtual team members?
6. How do you introduce the concept of virtual teams to a company that is used to face-to-face meetings?
7. When virtual team members are hard to reach, how do you handle it without bullying them?
8. How do you stop combative behavior during meetings?
9. How do you manage socializing your team when they live far away from each other?
10. Humans are very visually oriented, especially men. Are there general gender differences in teams, how do you include these differences?
11. What are some best practices on managing virtual teams when the team composition changes from call to call?
12. Suggest some free or low-cost collaberation tools for small/medium sized companies.
13. How do you build trust among virtual team members who have never met each other in person?
14. You described the timezone "challenges" associated with teams located all around the globe. Are there some further "best practices" in for managing teleconferences?
15. If you have 10 staff in a call and, while all have a stake/role in the call, some have a far less stake than others. How do you keep these staff from feeling the meeting was a waste of time?
16. Should we get discouraged with multi-taskers who may not pay attention during conference calls? Is it an etiquette issue or shall we accept it and call their names prior to a question/discussion when they are needed?
17. What do you mean by “avoid status reporting?”
18. Is there a noted difference in “etiquette'”when working with virtual teams? As a remote employee, I often write as I would talk... yet those who are typically onsite vary on what they would rather see via IM, email, etc... Do the companies you have studied have more success when people are more formal with their communication? More successful if “writing as they speak?”
19. Any resources and guidelines for creating incentives for virtual teams?
20. Are the strategies any different with language barriers, and how?
21. Is there a noticed trend in 'adaptability' across industries? i.e., is a virtual team successful faster in a software development company vs. a company that is not necessarily known for using technology?
22. Is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator an asset when working with virtual teams?
23. To get team members to work together, is it better to assign tasks or let them come together to decide?
24. Do you suggest face to face once a month?
25. How important is it to have a face-to-face team building experience to virtual teams?
26. What about participants who speak differnent languages across timezones?
27. What are some specific suggestions for building trust in a virtual world?
28. What is the first thing that needs to be done to build trust between virtual teams?
29. How do you deal with a member of the team who is sometimes combative?
30. Is there evidence that virtual teams can be as productive and produce outcomes as high quality as face-to-face teams?
31. Are there software tools specific to managing virtual teams?
32. Can you recommend a book or reference for an engineering team (not IT) to create a virtual team?
33. I find it so difficult to actually *schedule* the meetings to get everyone in the "virtual room." Do you have any best practices for scheduling meetings to accommodate very different schedules?