Today, I had the honour of presenting in a new country as well as to a completely new group of individuals! I was approached by the VISUG organisers to present a new presentation all around how to lead virtual teams. This was a presentation that I’ve been working and modifying for a few months and adapting it based on lessons learned and new findings.
What is VISUG XL?
VISUG XL is the Visual Studio User Group. They are based in Belgium. Their mission is to: “…bring the community together with talks, to create the optimal environment to inform and network with your peers, with a focus on Microsoft stack but open to innovative debate”. VISUGXL was a one day virtual conference with 16 speakers running across 3 different tracks. As to be expected with a technical user group, there was a heavy technology component but it was really nice to see such a variety of non technical topics to offer the audience.
Working with virtual teams is a new presentation that I have created. It’s a one hour session focused on the following areas:
- Understanding working virtually
- Tips for working virtually
- Leading virtual tips
- What to avoid
My aim for this session was to provide practical knowledge as well as encouraging the audience to reflect not only on their own management style and preferences but also what tools would work in their situation. Being one hour, I tried to make sure that I kept it varied enough for the audience as well as giving best practices and examples from my own career and projects.
I was thrilled to get quite a lot of interaction and questions from the audience. The main areas of focus included: How to encourage organisations to invest in people, working in isolation and how to switch off. I’ve highlighted a few questions below:
- How can you do virtual team meetings without adding to the Zoom Fatigue?
- Answer: You really need to be strategic with your meetings. Analyse each of them and see if they’re adding value. Once you can eliminate the waste, make sure that every meeting has a clear purpose, agenda and the right people. This will ensure that any meeting in your calendar is a ‘valuable addition’ to your day
- Unfortunately, lots of companies do not invest in people skills/people management. Have you got any tips for trying to convince them that it’s a worthwhile addition?
- If trainings are not offered/promoted by the company, I would try to include trainings as part of the yearly HR plan so that it can be included in their professional development. If you use a formal route for declaring trainings and development, it can stop it from being dismissed for ‘frivilous’ reasons (such as not enough time etc).
- What could be the reason that my team are communicating and working better remotely, than we do in the office?
- Great question! This could be for many reasons. It could be because everyone prefers working from home. Alternatively, it could be because you have fewer distractions than the office, so it helps keep people focused on the task at hand.
- You encouraged us to turn off our PCs and take a break, but I live alone. My PC is only interaction in the wider world and an ‘escapism’. Is it OK to keep my PC on?
- Yes, most definitely! But just don’t use it to work! Feel free to remain on social media, gaming and personal PC time but just do not log into your work laptop/account. It is very important when you’re in lockdown to remain connected with your social online network.
This was a really exciting topic for me to present and I hope that I get the chance to present it at more events in the coming months.
Update: Here’s a podcast that I recorded with Andy Kaufman in 2017 where we discuss leading virtual teams.
I’d love to know what you think and what your best practices are.