Virtually Speaking… Part 3: Team Member

In my recent Blog post, we focused on how to create an environment of excellence as a Project Manager working in a virtual environment. This blog post comes from an email that I’ve received and I wanted to share this as it’s a common question that I’m asked during webinars that I’ve led.

“Dear Emily, I’m a Project Coordinator and Team member of a virtual project. As a Team, we are really struggling with working in different locations and as the remote location, we often feel isolated from the onshore team and more often than not, we do not feel respected as the professionals that we are. What can we do to show the Project Manager of our abilities? or how can we work more effectively as a team?”

This is a common question that I get during webinars as Team Members often feel disengaged or feel unmotivated by the projects that they’re working in. The isolation can manifest itself in different ways and for a project it can mean the difference between success and failure.

What should you do if you’re leading a remote team that’s feeling isolated/disconnected?

I think it’s really important that if you’re in any position of the remote team that you let the lead Project Manager know what’s going on and that this risk exists. This allows the Project Manager to be able to do something to resolve it. But what do you do if the Project Manager is the problem themselves? This is a difficult one! You need to try and work with them to identify the issue and work on a resolution but if they won’t listen for whatever reason then I recommend talking to your local stakeholders to get support. This could be in the form of a Resource Manager, PMO support or additional support person. In several virtual projects that I have been involved with, there has been a person assigned from the organisation to be the intermediary between the two teams to make sure that the connection “works”. This is normally a junior Project Manager supporting the main Project Manager in their job.

What if the problem lies within the team?

This is a valid question that needs to be addressed through team development, training and team building. In my experience, where there is a difficulty within the team, it should be rectified as soon as possible to avoid the negativity festering and building in the project. As a Project Manager or lead, you need to work with the individual to work out their issue and resolve accordingly.

Examples of where an issue lies within the team could include any of the following:

  • Negative “trash talking” about other members of the team/remote team/project
  • Willingly withholding information from team members (especially in the remote location)
  • Escalating to stakeholders about perceived issues in the project and going behind the project managers back
  • Rudeness/attitude towards other members of the team (normally in the remote location or vice versa).

If you see yourself as a team member struggling to work because of these issues, it is your duty to raise this to the project manager and ensure that they’re aware of the situation. It is then their responsibility to resolve.

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