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Virtual team is group
of individuals who work in different locations in different countries around
the world and virtual team has become vital role in every leading organization.
Team members are dispersed all over the world with different time zones,
cultural differences but they are well connected through advanced technology like
video conference, teleconference, emails, instant messenger and fax that keeps
everyone on track within the team. Virtual team and its member’s faces
different challenges like communication lag, trust issues, technological
issues, poor participation where team leader has to step in and lead the team
in the right direction. It is important for a team leader to lead the team with
good motivation, clear focused goals, proper communication rules and common
mindset. Virtual team leader should be well disciplined and he should have
clear goals, right strategies, good interpersonal and communication skills to
solve the issues and leads the team for best results.

             

Figure: 1 Virtual Teams
around the globe (United stated, Germany, Japan Virtual Teams, 2015)

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Virtual
team leader link all these team members to work in unity, share common
organizational goal and to bring best out of them. The performance goals of
this virtual team will be interdependent and member of the virtual team will
hold themselves accountable for the completion of the shared objective (Vennapoosa,
C. 2009).

Types
of Virtual teams

In
an Organization, virtual teams work together from different countries with
different time zone but not from the same location and these virtual teams are either
temporary or permanent based on the length of the projects. Virtual teams are
not only into information technology industries, it also serves different areas
like manufacturing, health care, marketing, research and development.

There are 8 types of virtual
teams depending upon the role and objective of the team.

·        
Network teams

·        
Parallel teams

·        
Project development teams

·        
Functional teams

·        
Service teams

·        
Action Teams

·        
Management teams

·        
Offshore ISD teams

The above mentioned team
has its own pros and cons and every team function at a different level (Reddy,
C. 2017).

Virtual
team Vs traditional work team

A
traditional team consists of members that are separated by distance but united
by a common goal. But Virtual teams are wide spread members across the globe in
different geographies, time zones and cultures. The interactions among the
virtual team members are mediated by the information and communication technology
(MSG Management Study Guide, 2017).

Virtual
team has a complex structure and leading the team requires extra effort but in
the traditional team the team leader has in person contact with the members for
fostering teamwork. These direct contact opportunities are lost in virtual
team, which is important to promote team work and to solve the issues among the
team members (Kahai, S. 2008).

______________________________________________________________________________Pros
of virtual team                                                                Cons
of virtual team

____________________________________________________________________________

·        
Decrease use of resources                                           Technology
issues

·        
Wide availability of skilled people                             Communication gaps

·        
Good work life balance                                              Decreased
team bonding

·        
Saves time in meetings                                                Decreased
cohesiveness

·        
Increased productivity                                                            Uneven
distribution of knowledge

·        
Decreased cost in travel                                              Difference
in time zone

·        
Available 24/7 work pattern                                       Trust
issues

It
is important to follow the policies, guidelines and standard of practice in the
virtual team to make the team successful. By following these standards, it will
help the team and its members to overcome communication, trust, and time zone
issues and to improve level of understanding and trust among the team members (Reddy,
C. 2017).

Types
of Technology used in virtual team

In
the business world, virtual teams are very common and business can be done in
any part of the world. Technology plays important role in connecting
organization and its members to do business around the world. Common technology
tools that are widely used by the organizations and its team members are;

·        
Collaboration tools – Slack, spark,
Microsoft teams, grape and red booth

·        
Project management tools – Microsoft
project, primavera, base camp

·        
Document storage tools – Drop box, Google
drive, share point

·        
Meeting tools – WebEx, Go To meeting,
Google hangouts 

·        
High end video conference – Cisco,
polycom telepresence, Logitech life size

·        
Audio and video conference –  Skype, join me, blue jeans

·        
Instant messaging tools – Skype for
business, Jabber, Same time, stride

·        
Document co-creation tools – Google
docs, Prezi, Concept board

·        
Social network tools – Yammer, Chatter,
Jive

·        
Scheduling tools – Doodle, Schedule Once,
Timeanddate.

Technology saves time
and makes business more effective and it connects all the dispersed members of
the virtual team around the world (Manager, T. C. 2013). With the help of
technology, team members with great talents are well connected with the
organization and this helps the team members to be more productive.

Virtual
team strategy

Figure:
2 Virtual Teams (United stated, Germany, Japan Virtual
Teams, 2015)

To
lead a virtual team it requires different types of skill set, but the success
of any virtual team relies on major three key factors; results, process and
relationship. Results relate to a desire to strive for a goal, Process relates
to their desires for predictability and influence and relationship is the need
for rapport among the team members. Successful team leaders will keep their
high performance team members and when they are out of balance, the team
declines in their performance. Team leaders may use skills like ease off on
results, beef up team processes, build relationships, increase appreciation and
boost empathy (Savitz, E. 2012).

Work
systems should be well defined with proper standards for the team members to
make it effective and to complete the task within the ability of the member. Virtual
team needs multiple communication tools to establish communication between the
members which gives the feel of togetherness. Routine team meetings through
video conference calls gives feel of being in the office to the team members to
discuss about deliverables which gives more freedom and avoids any
misunderstandings among the team members. Team members with different time zone
should work overlapping hours to complete the task on time and with the right
people it is always possible (Baldassarre, R. 2015).

Virtual
team effectiveness

Getting the right team
with well balanced members are not easy in the virtual team. The right team
should have people with good communication skills, able to work independently
and emotional intelligence. Team should consist of enough members and not with
too many that may confusion among the members. Most effective teams are with
less than ten members (Ferrazzi, K. 2014).

·        
Ground Rules

·        
Information exchange

·        
Scheduling

·        
Multiple commutation lines

·        
Empowerment

Virtual team manager
establish the rules to the team members and make sure everyone understands and
follows it. Team member should exchange the information through proper and
right technology with maximum efficiency to avoid any delay. And to maintain
this efficiency the whole team should schedule the meeting at the same time to
solve any outstanding issues and to preplan for upcoming projects. Team members
should connect with other for professional and personal reasons which give
strong bonding between the members. Team leader should give enough power to the
employees to make their own decision related to work but final approval should
be cleared only through team leader and this will help to improve members work
flow and all the virtual team members to take responsibility of their job. Each
member in the virtual team should be more dedicated towards their work. There
are procedures and rules for the team members to follow for effective team work
habits (Root, G. N. (2017).

Challenges
in virtual team

Figure
3 Challenges of working in virtual teams, (What are the challenges of working in virtual
teams, 2017)

 

Most
of the successful companies have expanded their brands all over the world and
expansions are managed by the virtual team. Organizations are well connected
with their employees with internet tools and such virtual connections is
important to the team members who are part of the same project, in order to
discuss ideas, views, challenges and to help the project be successful. Even
though such teams play huge role towards the success of the organization, they
also face their own challenges. Any problem within the team will cost more to
organization and it is important to solve the problems without any delay to get
team stronger and to achieve desired results (4 Virtual Team Challenges and
Solutions, 2017).

There
are different challenges in the virtual teams and depending on the type of team
the challenges vary few common types of challenges in the virtual teams are;

·        
Difference in time zones

·        
Cultural difference

·        
Communication lag

·        
Trust issues

·        
Technological issues

·        
Routine work

·        
Work and personal life imbalance

·        
Physical distance

·        
Work ethic problems

·        
Diversified teams

·        
 Loss in productivity

·        
Lack of personal connection

Any
challenge in the team will slow down the work and can cause network failure
among the team members. Team leader should resolve the issue without any delay
and implement strategies to avoid issues in future (Advantages and Challenges
of Virtual Work Teams. (n.d.).

Importance of leadership

Team
leaders in an organization plays vital role in overall success of the
enterprise. Team leaders are important to execute the vision for the
organization and to set the tone for the team members. Effective team leaders
share some of the managerial duties that help in developing the business to
grow. Team leader provides guidance to all the members to fulfill their roles
and responsibilities. This includes training and instructing team members and
taking corrective actions when needed. Team leaders make sure that team members
understand any new information given by the organization which may impact their
specific roles (Joseph, C, 2017). Team leaders in the virtual team should be
more transparent in communication by communicating regularly with the team
members and phone meeting with individual team members. Patience is key for the
team leader, as virtual environment is full of challenges. Technology issues
may slow down the team work which may delay the outcome result. Team Leader
should control his own irritations and upset and lead the team in a
professional way. This quality will help the team leader to build good
relationship between the team members and creating good rapport among them.
Quarterly or annual in person meetings will be helpful to build good
relationship between the team members. Team leader should focus on result,
monitor the members performance, measure the outcome and award them based on
the results. Team leader should know about culture values, communication model
and work preference of his team members who works in different time zones and
in different countries, provide them support as needed. Team leader should
demonstrate excellent skills in technology, to assist his team when there is an
issue with communication technology. Team leader should be able to learn and
adapt new skills to overcome obstacles and to perform effectively (Six Skills
You Need for leading virtual teams. (n.d.).

Figure: 3 Leadership Qualities (leadership characteristics for successful
global virtual teams, 2015)

Leader
should create vision, strategy, shared cultures, values and make the team
members grow. Team leader should build mutual relationship with the team
members to motivate, inspire, and act as a coach for the development of the
organization (B, 2015).

Good
team leaders will ensure that the team members’ morale remains high and workers
are motivated to perform well. Team leaders can impact morale among the members
by boosting the sense of the confidence and trust among the workers that gives
positive approach towards the jobs and organization. Team leader also foster an
atmosphere of creativity that can lead to a new innovation. They also promote
essential values which is important to the success of an organization. A leader
with honesty, integrity can be a good role model for his team members to ensure
that they will act in the same way (Joseph, C, 2017).

Role
of leader in virtual team

Leader
should possess different skill set and should exhibit executive skills to meet
new challenges in global teams which are totally different from traditional
teams. Leader should facilitate and direct the team in right direction without
any obstacles and lead the team in a different way. Teams
across the globe work differently and it is challenging for the team leader
when it comes to decision making. It is the difficult tasks for the leaders of
global teams that the decision making process should not be affected or
influenced by the culture.

Virtual team leader should lead the team in a different way than
a traditional team, roles and responsibilities should be assigned to the team
members with clear instructions. Team leader should be willing to try different
types of decision making process at the different levels in a project. When a
decision is made by the team leader, he implements on the team based upon the
location and type of the team. Team leader should build trust among team
members and it should be built in a different way, it takes long time in the
virtual team to build the trust due to lack of face to face conversation. Communication is the key to lead the virtual team and team
leaders has less influence when communicating
through videoconference. Positive body language and gestures will enhance the
quality of speech which improves effectiveness of the communication. Team
leader should have different level skills to communicate with diversified teams
and different geographical teams due to different language, time zone, culture,
work style and work ethics (Meyer, E. 2010).

 

Conclusion

            In this new business world, every leading
organization with different sectors are widely using virtual team for the
development of the business. There are lots of challenges among the team
members like limited personal interactions, cultural changes, communication
lag, powerlessness, internal politics, conflicts, trust issues and lack of
commitment. Team leader with effective leadership skills can lead the team with
proper strategies and policies which will lead the team and the organization
towards positive growth (MSG Management Study Guide, 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

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