In today’s virtual organizations people increasingly work in teams made up of people from different departments and, in many instances, with people who are outside of the company. The challenge is to gain the cooperation of individuals you have no control over.
To effectively lead these collaborative teams you must rely on personal persuasion rather than the power of your position. Whether you’re heading an interdepartmental team; leading a combined customer, company and supplier project; or building support for new ideas or programs, the ability to persuade others is extremely important.
To guarantee the success of your virtual team project, use this expert advice.
Ensure management support. Whether it is a virtual team or a "skunk works" project, one of the most vital pieces of information you’ll want to learn is who requested that the team be brought together, and what is his objective? Did the call to action come from the chief executive officer or the management committee? What are the expressed and implied objectives? Make certain there is a firm commitment to the project and program so when the team is done with the project, actions and recommendations will be carried out. If there is no commitment to the project then management loses its credibility.
Opportunity, not punishment. If you’re recruiting people for the project team, sell the individual on the importance of the activity and his part in producing results. It often is said that if you want something important to be done and done properly seek out the busiest individuals because they know how to make things happen. These are the people you want on your team.
Short-circuit problems. If you’ve been named to head up the project team there may be some resentment from your peers. In some instances they may feel the "honor" or responsibility should have been theirs or they don’t feel you’re qualified for the task. At the outset, empower your team members; let them know you’re the facilitator for the project, not the leader.
Agree on goals. Make certain everyone is on the same page and working toward the same objective at the outset. At your first meeting, agree upon a common objective or set of objectives and on the time frame for completing the project. This keeps everyone moving in the same direction and at the same pace. Next, get a commitment from management to the objectives and the execution of the outcome. Your team and senior management must agree that not succeeding isn’t an option.
Involve the team members. Make certain every member of the team feels his role and input is important. Ask for his input and ideas. Then, as a team, seriously consider the inputs rather than dismissing or ignoring them. By closely involving each of the members, they have a stake in making certain that the project or program succeeds. If they aren’t involved in the process, they aren’t responsible for the outcome. Once the project is complete, the important phase begins with meeting with and assisting those who must implement the project. Their involvement comes at the outset by getting inputs and suggestions and then communicating to get their assistance and cooperation in making the changes happen.
Part II of this article appeared in the May 2000 issue.
About the Author
G.A. "Andy" Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to suggest a topic to see covered, or if you have a question you need answered, please e-mail Mr. Marken at email@example.com.