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Leading Distributed Teams - What are your greatest challenges?
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Question for project managers and leaders with distributed (remote) team members: what are your biggest challenges, concerns or frustrations? Where could you use some help or ideas? Thanks in advance!
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One of the challenges is how to detect non-verbal communication. If the team mates are virtual, and only on a phone, it is most challenging. The lowering costs of video conferencing, which allows more video, is helping.
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Its a challenging scenario. I agree with Gary.
Refer Communication Management Process Area of PMBOK. It gives lots of insights
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Communication and team members engaging are challenging and key managing remote teams.
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I am leading virtual teams for 6 years. If we follow a discipline of staying on agenda, coming to meetings on time, doing diligence in following up, communicating well to the right stakeholders at the right time, in the right context and tone based on their influence and impact, we will be able to set some examples and culture ahead. Later on, they will start respecting you and work will go smoother than before for sure.
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I am leading this type of groups from more than 25 years ago. More than 65 countries involved into each initiative. You have to understand that is the same if you work in a hugh organization with lot of buildings then you are not able to meet people face to face. It is the same. Today you have a lot of tools (for example all Microsoft Office tools and others that are free) that will help you to live into a big "matrix". The only thing you have to take into account is that just in case you are communicating with other via text (the same when you use your cell phone or smart phone) your feelings and the other feelings can not be perceived (at least, for the moment...)
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It's also worth considering the impact of individual personality types on your management style, for example, if a team member is 'always on', you will need to establish agreed working hours and make sure they don't feel overwhelmed. This infographic has some useful tips and suggestions. http://bit.ly/2tImr0r
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On top of the already mentioned challenges, I like to highlight the topic "intercultural communication and behavior". From own experience, it is very important to understand how people express themselves and understand certain messages/ react on certain messages working in a virtual distributed team in different regions worldwide.
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Fully agree with Peter. I forgot to point out this when I talked about "feelings" and communication. For example, right now, I am working in a company where I lead programs with more than 65 countries involved along the world and people from all the cultures. I am living in Latin America. For 80% of people I am working in those programs from 6 years ago I have no opportunity to meet them face-to-face no matter those programs are the critical ones for the company and we are working together each day of the week (mainly talking by phone). So, as Peter stated, understand the culture is a must. And try to make an abstraction to understand the different reactions to an action I took when working with them (in fact is better try to anticipate the reaction to determine the action to be taken).
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All good points mentioned so far. One more challenge is to verify if the remote teams have understood what is expected of them and what their next actions are. This typically goes back to the point mentioned by Peter
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The challenge is every team has a context based on their place of work, office culture, ethnicity etc. We cannot assume a uniform approach to all distributed teams. Email communication is not safe to handle issues. Phone/Video calls should be a good substitute.

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