The Virtual World: Management Challenges Faced By Global Virtual Team Leads

As a virtual manager, how do you monitor your virtual team from afar?

Last week, we talked about challenges that managers face dealing with global virtual teams, specifically in a cross-cultural context.

But some challenges have to do with the environment itself.

While the virtual environment comes with significant advantages, you might face difficulties as a manager with communication, task management, accountability, etc.

Communication 

From virtual meetings to chat tool procedures, you have the tools at the ready for quality communication on your virtual team, even if it isn’t in-person. 

But as a manager of a virtual team, you shouldn’t assume that everyone is familiar with the program your using or chat procedures.

As a manager you should:

  • Instruct your team about how and when to use communication tools, whether a phone call, a chat, or an email
  • Collaborate as a team over virtual meetings to work together and solve any issues on the project
  • Clearly deliver the team’s expectations and aims
  • Encourage remote team bonding to nurture relationships amongst team members

Task Management

Managing a team virtually is very different than in an office environment.

You can still check in on progress, but you can’t step into your colleague’s office and visually see where they’re at in a group project.

Ensuring that each member of the team is on task and in sync to complete the project by deadline might therefore seem like an impossible task.

But don’t worry; the virtual world has software to assist in monitoring progress from your laptop.

Teamwork, Wrike, monday.com, ProjectManager, Mavenlink by Kantata – all of these project management tools will allow you to track the progress of each team member…without having to badger them every single day.

Productivity & Accountability

While the above tools can help you hold your team accountable, it’s still difficult to know whether they’re truly being productive or not…or if they’re scrolling through Facebook all day long.

Some of your employees may be new to virtual work; others may have a million distractions in their remote working environment.

As a team lead, teaching your team how to remove the distractions and work independently is essential to keeping them productive.

Some ways to keep your team accountable and productive:

  • Communicate your work targets regularly and ensure they’re met by each team member
  • Recommend website blockers, timers, and noise cancellation software to keep team members on track
  • Teach effective time management methods, like the Pomodoro Technique, to improve focus

All of these tools, along with an emphasis on communication and task management, will help you create a virtual environment that’s engaged, task-oriented, and collaborative.

“Time is Money”: Monochrons and Time Perception

A German manager was sent to Honduras to monitor a factory for his company.

Every single day, the factory workers showed up a half-hour late.

He held a meeting with the workers and brought this issue up, expecting to see some changes.

Nothing.

He created an incentive for being on time, offering a raise at year’s end to those who were punctual.

Nothing.

He implemented a sliding scale of punishment for tardiness, with a three-strike rule.

Nothing.

He laid down the law and fired a worker who was exceptionally late on a regular basis.

Still, the next day, workers did not punch in on time.

No matter how often he insisted that they be punctual, nothing changed.

He complained to his Honduran co-manager about this issue, and she shrugged, saying, “They may be late, but at least they show up. That, in and of itself, is rare.”

This is where monochrons and polychrons butt heads, and the frustration is very real.

Last week, we touched on the differences between monochronic and polychronic cultures.

This post will go into deeper detail about what to expect from monochronic employees or managers.

What to Expect from a Monochron

As the above example shows, monochrons – whose cultures are prominently found in Northern Europe, North America, and parts of Asia – are time-sensitive.

Time is strictly divided: there is a time for fun and a time for work.

As Project Management Institute describes it, monochrons treat time as:

“a commodity of high value, as necessary as or perhaps even more important than satisfaction, good work, and relationships.”

Time is as tangible as any other commodity, as the phrase, “Time is money,” suggests.

Time can be wasted. It can be saved. It can be killed. It can be lost. It can won.

This perspective of time results in monochrons having a stricter and more stressful relationship with the clock and, as such, they try to use their time effectively, often focusing on completing one task at a time.

As studies show, doing so is actually a more productive use of time than multitasking.

Studies indicate that multitasking is less efficient because we are less focused, resulting in shallower learning and lower achievement and productivity. 

In fact, one study showed that only 2.5 percent of people are effective multitaskers.

The fact that monochronic cultures eschew multitasking for a more focused approach indicates that they are instinctively making the most effective use of time.

A monochron’s linear thinking and proclivity to strict schedules, with a focus on one event following another (think a timetable or meeting agenda, etc.), exemplifies this.

Get It Done

Monochrons emphasize getting things done.

Punctuality. Precision. Productivity.

These are the keys to success in a monochronic culture.

Managing time to use it more efficiently results in greater productivity and, thus, greater success.

So, here’s a pro tip if you are attending a meeting with an international colleague: understand their time perspective and meet their expectations.

If they are from a monochronic culture, arrive early, be prepared, and adhere to the agenda.

Business Culture & Social Responsibility: Where Do the Pair Intersect?

What does it mean to be socially responsible as a business?

This blog post will explore where the two intersect.

Although Western cultures are rule-based, they are limited when addressing the global problems of today. And yet, businesses must take on social responsibility in today’s world and be held accountable for their practices, because these practices, in the end, can impact all of us.

Social responsibility is taking hold.

Social Responsibility

What is social responsibility?

In short, it’s when an individual or organization takes it upon themselves to act in a way that benefits society rather than only their reputation or bottom line.

With social responsibility, economic ecosystems – such as environmental efforts, societal welfare, or material development – balance out.

One example of this is when the environment is negatively impacted by an organization’s productivity or processes.

For instance, when Ohio’s Cuyahoga River repeatedly caught fire from an oil slick, which prompted governmental change, including the 1970 formation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Or the case made famous on the silver screen, in which Erin Brockovich drove a 600+ resident suit against PG&E, after discovering illnesses in the town of Hinkley, CA were linked to high levels of hexavalent chromium found in the drinking water. When she traced the pollution’s source to PG&E, she found that the utility giant was well aware of the pollution and attempted to cover it up.

The lawsuit was settled for $333 million in 1996.

In these cases, an organization’s social responsibility must be put under the microscope.

A community’s health, as well as the biological ecosystems of an area, could potentially be (and have been in the past / continue to be in the present) destroyed.

When a business is indifferent to these impacts on the society it’s meant to serve, not only does the company’s negligence reflect poorly upon their culture, it can literally mean life or death for some.

Active/Passive Social Responsibility

You can also be active or passive in your socially responsible principles and behavior.

One example: shoplifting in a retail environment.

It sometimes happens that retail workers shoplift from the companies they work for. As a retail worker yourself, you might know that your colleagues do it, but keep your mouth shut, though you don’t participate.

This is passive social responsibility.

Active social responsibility is more direct. It might mean advocating for better antitheft procedures, like spot-checking bags before employees head out for the day.

As long as you don’t follow suit when you witness your colleagues crossing that ethical line, you are being socially responsible.

Whether active or passive, that responsibility reflects your values.

Next week, we’ll talk more about a relatively new type of management strategy called corporate social responsibility.