The Challenges of Managing Virtual Teams
Remote work is on the rise and has definitely come to stay. However, when you are the project manager of a virtual software development team, there are some common challenges that you have to face. Learn here how to overcome them with some specific skills.
Author: Eric Delahaye, Hexacta, https://www.hexacta.com/
It is frequent for those of us who virtually lead software development projects to face a series of challenges with our distributed teams daily. Meeting the client’s objectives, working with a high level of quality using Agile methodologies, staying ahead of new technologies, and above all, staying connected and communicated despite the physical distance maintained with several clients.
Beyond all this, the most challenging thing we face is undoubtedly the need for our collaborators to be motivated, committed, and comfortable in the projects they work on.
Is it complex to achieve all these? How good are we as project leaders at managing our virtual teams using our soft skills?
Thinking about the different alternatives we can appeal to maintain high standards, I decided to make the top 3 actions that leaders – either as Project Managers or Product Owners – have to be taken into account to manage virtual teams successfully.
1. Delegate clear tasks
As leaders, we are always assigning tasks to team members to accomplish the project. But for such assignments to be effective, we must be clear and transparent. It is key to take the necessary time to explain in detail the acceptance criteria of each task: why and what is important, and how, where, and when the task is expected to be completed.
Once we delegate the task, it is indispensable that the other person explains his/her perspective and states that he has accepted it, verifying that he/she has fully understood. Finally, we can highlight the most relevant aspects, review everything, and clear up any questions.
How can we apply it? This is accomplished by using the spaces/scenarios provided by the Scrum methodology in one of its ceremonies — the Planning Meeting. There, we will be able to delegate the tasks. However, and going beyond the formal meetings of the methodology, we can also hold videoconferences with our team to make the assignment of activities during the Sprint.
2. Emotional and engaged listening
It is essential to communicate with people beyond the role they play within the project.
Effective communication for distributed teams is an essential skill for a leader, so it is important to develop an emotional and committed listening ability in order not to judge others’ emotions. This will also help us avoid prejudices that, most of the time, make us lose focus on what we are listening to.
Listening to the other person is about listening to the words and the emotionality in which the person finds himself/herself. A committed listening refers to understanding the objective for which the other person is telling us. It also refers to knowing their interests and motivations. When we are presented with these situations, it is crucial to ask ourselves why our interlocutor is expressing his/her ideas
How can we apply it? Through a series of questions, we can find out what the person is suggesting and fully understand what he/she is trying to express. A good tactic is making a kind of summary or paraphrase parts of the conversation to make sure you understood correctly. One last piece of advice: Design strategies and execute actions that provide opportunities for continuous learning from what has been heard.
3. Assess the state of the team member’s mood
Moods and emotional states condition human behavior and actions, so being aware of them is useful to be able to take action, always seeking to make others feel motivated, accompanied, and cared for.
However, being able to measure how the team is doing implies being good observers. It is important, through observation and reflection, to know how to develop and refine the ability to access our emotional world and the one of the people around us.
How can we apply it? Frequently, in the group or individual meetings we lead, we can take a few minutes to find out how the person is doing, both at work and personally. Here is when we can guide the conversation so that the other person can verbalize what is happening to him/her and help him/her to transform certain situations into opportunities, as well as connect with his/her desires and needs.
Virtual teams and remote work are here to stay and are expanding to all levels and areas of business rapidly. Today, the training of leaders in the development of their soft skills is a fundamental and decisive element for the process of natural adaptation to these virtual work dynamics with multidisciplinary teams. At Hexacta, we are confident that virtual teams work, and our clients’ results support this statement.
About the author
Eric Delahaye is an engineer that has worked for more than 20 years in software development, research, development and leadership for projects in several industries and using different technologies. For the last 10 years, he has successfully managed Agile projects. His interests are software as an engineering discipline, development processes, methodologies and quality standards. This article was originally published on https://www.hexacta.com/challenges-in-managing-virtual-teams-and-skills-to-overcome-them/ and is reproduced with permission from Hexacta.