Most organizations today operate in a global environment. Goods and services are sourced and sold across international markets. As such, virtual teams’ are an enormous asset in almost any organizational setting. Leveraging diverse virtual teams across global markets has the capacity to determine unique multi-market strategies, undertake planning from diverse perspectives, carry out research in different markets, and perform other complex tasks that have the capacity to drive competitive advantage for global organizations.

Despite this fact, diverse virtual teams’ are an unexploited asset in most organizations. Even though the opportunities are enormous, most leaders also recognize that the challenges are significant as well. Teams with members from diverse cultural and functional backgrounds inevitably differ in their assumptions about decision-making and even in their preconceptions of teamwork – traditional models of multicultural collaboration often fail to leverage individual team members’ skills and experiences in productive ways.

There is a fundamental balance that you, as a leader, need to recognize and encourage in your virtual teams if you are serious about succeeding in today’s global marketplace: coexistence of differences and meaningful participation. The idea that differences can coexist productively, while facilitating meaningful contributions is not intuitive, because it’s complex.

This inherent complexity often causes leaders to opt for decreased productivity, rather than leveraging the immense potential that lies just beneath the surface of the virtual team.  The potential resides in something that your multicultural virtual teams have that traditional teams do not:

Divergent Thinking

Continue Reading…

Global virtual teams (GVTs), present in many organizations, transcend organizational, national and cultural boundaries. This evolving structure in organizations provides flexibility, integration of globally dispersed skills and capabilities – and in the case of GVTs – connectivity across geographical and temporal boundaries, to name but a few advantages. However, virtual teams also encounter multiple challenges that are characterized by cultural miscommunication, power and control, cross-cultural conflict, and the effective attainment of assigned global goals and objectives

Not surprisingly, despite years of research on how to improve virtual team outcomes, GVTs still fail at an alarming rate – research results suggest that failure rates for virtual teams may be as high as 70%. According to Culture Wizard’s (2018) Global Virtual Teams Survey, the top challenges faced by global virtual teams are difficulties in communication (81%), managing conflict (86%), building relationships (86%), poor responsiveness (80%) and lack of engagement from all members (76%) – in short, they lack integration. The success or failure of a global company is essentially in the hands of culturally diverse people with many of them operating as part of a global virtual team.

Continue Reading…

The power of virtual teams to respond quickly to corporate challenges, pooling both broad and deep expertise, has become an important key to corporate success. However, to get the most from the vast experience, knowledge and perspective of dispersed team members, you need to use the strength of a vision to bring the team together – leveraging the opportunity to ensure that every person fully understands and embraces their purpose and the role they (as well as those of their teammates) play in organizational success.

In an environment where team members do not have the luxury of interacting face to face, creating a living, breathing shared vision is the solid foundation on which to build a sound structure.  A “virtual” vision serves several purposes: 

Continue Reading…

Did you know that an estimated 70% of international ventures fail due to poor cross-cultural interactions?  When individuals from different cultural backgrounds or environments don’t understand each other, it will inevitably lead to failed projects and suboptimal results.  Culture forms the way we think and act – across all spectrums – often causing members of virtual teams to perceive reality very differently across boundaries and borders. If you work on a global team… or with diverse people from down the hall, you too are at risk of contributing to poor business outcomes.

On the flip side, although cultural diversity has a high potential for negative outcomes, it also has enormous potential for growth and renewal that can facilitate extraordinary results. Always keep in the forefront of your mind that your virtual teams likely have more talent and potential than other types of teams by the sheer force of their diversity – the question is, will they be able to leverage that diversity for individual, team and corporate success?

Continue Reading…

On a traditional team, trust evolves as a function of demonstrated actions over time. However when working virtually, members typically do not have the opportunity to develop trust in the traditional gradual, cumulative way. The challenge for you, as a leader, becomes how to build trust rapidly across boundaries and borders.

The stark reality is that virtual team members do not usually have time to get to know each other. Typically, the team needs to focus quickly on critical tasks and has little time to build relationships. Despite this fact, virtual teams require a high level of trust in order to be successful.

Continue Reading…

In order for virtual teams to succeed, organizational leadership must establish a culture that values teamwork, communication, learning and capitalizing on geographical and functional diversity. The key to developing an organizational culture that supports virtual teams is that everyone across the organization is encouraged and enabled to embrace change and be open to virtual teams right from the start. This begins with senior leadership support and sponsorship – without it,  virtual teams are DOA (Dead on Arrival). It is critical that virtual teams are positioned at the highest levels as vital, value-add resources that provide sustainable competitive advantage for the corporation.

From an organizational perspective, you may want to consider four aspects of leadership that are known to positively impact virtual team performance:

Continue Reading…