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Best Practices for Leadership and Virtual Team

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The 21st century has brought along new technologies that we not only use in our daily lives but also in our professional careers. Companies are now starting to use virtual teams for projects, which brings together individuals from all over the world to collaborate and to make a company become competitive.


The challenges that virtual teams face among each other can deal with cultural diversity among team members. One has to remember that when dealing with teams in other countries what may be the norm here probably is not the norm somewhere else. A good leader of a virtual team, ( Malhotra, A., Majchrzak, A. & Rosen, B., 2007, pp. 61) has to be able to inspire teammates to collaborate on new ideas, managing them from a distance, enforcing rules and polices within the team and recognizing and rewarding individuals and the team when necessary.

One challenge that is obvious is that we are all culturally different. Each of our societies teaches us what our values and beliefs are and when we are compared to other individuals of different nations we are going to be different. (Hofstede, G., 2011) Geert Hofstede's five cultural dimensions of Power distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism/Collectivism, Masculinity/Femininity and Long-term orientation can help teach co-workers about each others country and what is acceptable and unacceptable in each. For example if the company is an US based company and working with teams in Asia and Eastern Europe, each team member should have access to Hofstede's dimensions. We would see that Americans are individualistic, while Asians and Eastern Europeans are collectivist, both cultures are masculine, we take risks in the US, while Asians and Eastern Europeans do not. Statistics like this should be readily available to team members so they can read up and be knowledgeable about each team member. (Malhotra, A., Majchrzak, A. & Rosen, B., 2007, pp. 63) Having virtual teams can create a challenge because the idea of "out of sight, out of mind" comes into play and this can create laziness and make individuals become not responsible for their work. This is why a good manager creates an "expertise directory" which simply is a directory that includes the team members picture, name, location, experience, previous assignments, etc.. that way when team members are doing work they know who their co-workers are and let them know that their is diversity among the team and it needs to be understood and accepted.

Another challenge that virtual teams face is language barriers. (Dube, L. & Pare, G., 2001, pp.72) Even though English is considered the lingua franca in the business world, everything comes across differently to others especially if English is the second language they speak. This can create bad information between team mates, can also lose ideas in the translation process. One way that this can be solved is by having structured communication sessions, where each member has a certain time to speak and get out what they feel is going good and bad. When this happens other team members must have tolerance and empathy when someone is speaking, that way noone feels embarrassed or rushed to get through something. For example, I get on a website owned by Rosetta stone and it is where people from all around the world can get on and learn a new language from an native speaker. I am in the process of teaching the basic English language to a few native Hungarian speakers in exchange for Hungarian lessons. Our forum is basically using Skype, Facebook and email to talk. I had a session today with a guy from Hungary and I asked him if he understood the English in the written form and he said yes, so I proceeded to write out some practices and he said that he didn't understand and that English is not spoken. Not only is he confused, I am confused also, so this is where Google Translate comes into play, I simply write what I want to convey to him in English and Google Translates it into Hungarian and after a couple minutes we are at complete understanding of each other and that he does want to learn English but he meant was that there was not a teacher around where he lived at. When it comes down to language barriers in an virtual team, I think by having a translation website or kit installed on the computer will be beneficial for all team members.

( Dube, L. & Pare, G., 2001, pp.72) Technology can also create challenges when working on virtual teams. Incompatible software between countries can affect emails and projects being emailed to one another. For example, when I worked on a team at Caterpillar, it wasn't a actually virtual team all the members were in my office or down the street in another building but we had a couple people from Europe on our team and the problem we has was their software and hardware were not compatible to our system, so the IT department had to linked them up and set them up remotely so that they were on the same broadband and software access as the Americans and once they were it was easy sailing from there.




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