ARE YOU A VIRTUAL BOSS?
With organisations opting to create virtual teams in today’s diversified work environment, a leader is expected to exhibit different skill-sets and a new leadership style.
Virtual teams consisting of people spread across different locations who communicate largely through technology tools like emails, video conferencing, etc. are most common at the workplace today. Thanks to the globalisation and technological advancements, people sitting across the globe today can work together on a single project/assignment and deliver quality results. Advantages like costeffectiveness, increased productivity, better employee engagement, etc are making many organisations adopt this structure at work.
However, experts say that effectiveness of the virtual teams depends on the capabilities of the leader. Managing the virtual team is not as easy as dealing with people whom you meet on a daily basis. A leader has to bring in several changes to his/her management style. According to Nandagopal Prasad, global head of partner qualification and certification, SAP Labs India, managing a global team is a huge opportunity to enrich leadership competencies. The most significant advantage of a global team is the innovation, which gets fuelled due to the diversity of the team. However, he feels that when it comes to operationally managing virtual teams, structural differences do crop up. “This can be resolved by having a local manager for the teams in each location or making people directly report to the manager outside of the location,” suggests Prasad.
“Another key quality a leader of the virtual team must possess is the ability or skill to collaborate with people without having meetings or face-to-face interaction,” says Bhavin Turakhia, founder and CEO, Directi. “A virtual leader must be capable of articulating himself/herself in writing. Writing down thoughts in an appropriate manner is a must. Proactively creating processes, which will make teams participate and share knowledge is also the responsibility of the leader,” adds Turakhia. Satish Menon, executive director, Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services Ltd feels that while managing a virtual team, a leader must take into consideration the characteristics of the location of the team and ground realities of the workplace culture must also be accommodated. “Interpersonal skills of the leader must be improved and depending on the product and situation, the
leader has to deal with people differently,” opines Menon.
To be able to manage a dispersed team effectively, a leader must bring in several changes to his/her leadership style. “Leaders have to evolve, and think what exactly they should deliver. There are numerous leadership theories and philosophies in this world but the only philosophy that will work with the virtual teams will be making the workforce understand the customers’ needs. The virtual teams and leaders would need to understand the priority of the business and should be able to take independent actions. A business leader should engage in helping every employee of his/her virtual team understand that he/she has to be the leader of one’s personal domain,” says Anirudh Dhoot, director, Videocon. “Leaders who manage across a global team across different time zones must be flexible to work during odd hours. The leader should not always expect his/her team to adjust to suit his/her convenience. Clarity and timeliness of communication are critical. It could be as trivial as adjusting the accent, speed of speech, so that people are able to comprehend over phone or any other conferencing devices,” suggests Prasad.
Thus, virtual teams require leaders who they
can follow with trust and it is this trust, which sets the foundation for creating excellent workplaces.
Priya C Nair ETHF121127