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The Virtual Team Coach

You can't manage them the same... they may reside in different regions of the world, with different cultures.
By not being in the same place, they're not able to see each other's facial expressions, or have informal conversation and thus get to know each other and work out differences of opinion.

Virtual teams have to have some of the same clarity of purpose of the team charter, along with how to implement the plan that a physical team would have.

They must agree upon how to measure success, on deliverables and timeline for completion that a physical team would. Communication is just as vital, if not more important. And the means of technology must be consistent along all lines to ensure this.

Q: what are some of the suggestions if the team does cross many countries and there are language differences?


You are right on. Consistent communication is one of the most important aspects of business, but it is especially critical when you are coordinating a virtual team.

Even for the best of teams, water cooler management plays a huge part in team communications when all members work in the same location. You simply do not have as much opportunity for casual conversation when your people are spread out.

As a leader, you must acknowledge this and understand that you will have to work harder and make more of an effort to keep the team informed and on task.

Although I have never coordinated an international team, I am sure working with cultural differences creates a much more complex and challenging virtual environment.


I am going to have to reach out to other students, faculty members and industry people to help you on this one.

Are you working with faculty and/or students taking online courses or are you working with different languages on the administrative side of the house?

You cannot coach the same in a virtual environment. You must consider cultural differences, different business practices, the fact that team members are not phicially accessible and access to information changes based on what type of communication and technology you use.

Individual coaching from a distance is tricky and requires a very skilled leader and communicator.

Hi Wendi,

I agree. Casual, impromptu group discussion is limited when managing a virtual team. As a result, you may have to schedule more frequent opportunities for formal communication between the team members.

Meeting format should encourage group discussion and structured participation, when possible, to ensure the entire team is engaged in the task at hand.

No, I would not manage a virtual team the same as a live team. Managing a virtual team requires a lot more organization and ahereing to the procedures than managing a live team.

As the manager of a virtual team you must understand each individuals stregthes and weaknesses and the cultural tendencies of the individual. In a live team, you can clarify with body language, understanding the surroundings, and by partipating in live coaching sessions. Also, in a live team you can bend the rules easily because you are present with the team, so as the manager you can correct any deficiencies rapidly. In a virtual team, you may not have this luxury, and in order to keep misunderstandings minimal, you must adhere 100% to the policies and procedures.

Hi Suzanne,

You are correct. Although social networking has come a long way it still is quite different when you don't have the water cooler talk to read people's reaction. As a result, you have to reach out to people a bit more in a virtual environment.

However, many of the same principles do apply to both types of management. In both scenarios you must carefully plan and forecast, using realistic assumptions. You then must track the leading indicators (inquiries, enrollments, show rate, placement run rate, etc.) and review the lagging indicators (financials, grad rate, etc.)on a regular basis.

Congratulate and thank those on track and reach out to those falling short. Same concepts and objectives; slightly different execution in the virtual world.

Could you ask the team member to explain his/her culture so that all team members understand? I think many times ignorance can play into a situation. If someone does not know that they are being offensive and if explained the cultural difference, effective communication can occur.

Regarding language differences, I know at times it may be difficult to understand someone since English is a second language to them. I have had a private conversation with the person as a team lead to work out solutions such as sending ideas written in advance so others can read the suggestions. Also have the person speak slowly because the person struggled with the wording not knowing the correct word to use.

In theory possibly but when it is virtual it is on a teleconference, you can not see the person's body language and verify that they are fully engaged. I enjoy video conference because you have the "virtual reality" that you are connected. The time zone differences do play a big factor in any type of virtual conference.

I like the idea of the Web page and allowing for hands-on interaction. The more you can engage the person, the more they feel that they are involved in the solution.

You have correctly identified some of the benefits and drawbacks associated with video conferencing. There are also the limitations of bandwidth and allowable numbers of participants. If you can overcome those obstacles, having one video conference a month or a quarter and phone conferences in between is a good strategy. Another strategy to increase participation is to send out the agenda in advance and require some type of pre-work to being to the meeting. During the meeting, everybody can address their item and that can stimulate conversation.

Dr. Jamie Morley


Good question! It depends on your relationship with the employee. If you feel comfortable, you could ask them in private if they would be willing to share information about their culture with the group. Another option would be to research cultural norms and distribute the information to the group by email outside of the meeting. Better yet, discuss this with your HR department and get their assistance in helping you maximize cultural awareness in your group.

Dr. Jamie Morley

Would you manage or coach a virtual team the same as if team members were physically present? Please explain.

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