Project managers spend most of their time managing tasks and resources on projects. This is all true whether the project is being handled remotely or if your team is sitting in the same room with you. It is just that the skills needed to effectively manage tend to skew more heavily on effective communication and the remote aspect can invite some challenges that don’t necessarily exist in the co-location project environment.
To manage a virtual team, it should be given more attention to six key strategies:
1) Hold meetings regularly, not sporadically
Keep every meeting. It can be very tempting to skip what might seem like a meaningless meeting. Even if there is nothing new to report, it is still important to have those touch points with your team to keep them fully focused and engaged. Even if your team status call is only 5 minutes long – you still need to have it.
2) Streamline communications
Consolidate and prioritize communications using email, texting, blogging and staying in touch and being personal. Communications of an important nature should be cohesive and never delivered in fragmentary pieces that have to be pieced together by the receiver. Mutually assess the communication preferences of yourself and your team members to develop a communication plan.
3) Be a good listener
When you are out of easy reach and you are tasked with managing the performance of others it is easy to get into the trap of needing to transmit lots of information. Do not forget the listening part and always be sure to keep an open mind. Be present and try to enter the perspective of those speaking to you. This will help you ask effective questions and identify what direction to go with your own needs and agenda. You might be very pleasantly surprised at how much more information you get from your team this way.
4) Manage deliverables, not activities
In the virtual project world, it is difficult to stay focused – and keep your team focused – on the project deliverables. Do not get too bogged down in managing the minute details because the distance you have between you and those that are performing those activities make that type of micro managing even more difficult. Focus on the higher-level tasks and the overall deliverables and expect your team to perform.
5) Know your team members and manage accordingly
Every employee is different. Mobile workers make it easier for managers to take a more personalized approach in how they work and interact with members of their team. Understanding what enables each employee to perform at his or her best is the most important responsibility of a manager.
6) Leverage technology
Today, the list available tools is endless, choose what suits best for your team and project. Choose a solid tool – like a web-based PM scheduling, status and document sharing tool for teams as an example – and ensure that your project team know how to use it. Putting a web-based solution in the hands of the project team can definitely make project manager’s job easier as task progress update responsibility can be delegated to those actually doing the work.
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