Does anyone believe in virtual project management?

Successfully managing virtual teams - 7 factors


If you want to manage virtual teams successfully, you have to do more than organize meetings using tools like Lync and Co. Our expert Steffen Liebener shows what is important for virtual teams to work together successfully and to achieve the set business goals.

Managing virtual teams: Is it all a question of technology?

Technology is often overrated when leading virtual teams. Yes, you need the Internet, tools for web or telephone conferences, a secure way of exchanging data - to name just a few. An activity tracking tool can also be useful, but none of that helps if this technology overlaps collaboration. For me, playing soccer is a good example here. Of course, the team needs a playing field, jerseys, a ball and very good, suitable shoes to help. But if the interpersonal is not right, there is no team spirit, rules are not adhered to, the manager has no vision and gives impulses, then even the best equipment will not lead the team to victory.

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Managing virtual teams - how does it actually work?

In my experience, medium-sized companies in particular fail when it comes to virtual leadership because of the interpersonal aspects. Medium-sized executives have often not yet understood sufficiently that virtual leadership is not leading via Lync and e-mail and that it is fulfilled by calling conference calls on a regular basis. The motivation of the team often suffers here, deadlines are not adhered to or the manager receives little feedback from his team.

Managing virtual teams means: leading differently!

Anyone who wants to lead successfully virtually has to lead differently: I experience time and again that these five aspects are essential: the detailed analysis of the initial situation, targeted use of technology, clear rules for communication and feedback that are adhered to by everyone, maintenance the interpersonal relationships and, above all, a significantly greater portion of mindfulness from the manager than would be necessary for face-to-face teams.

Managing virtual teams means: creating a clean foundation!

Here I would like to emphasize that the foundation stone for good cooperation must be laid before the first team meeting. In my experience, it is therefore important to analyze the initial situation: What are the competencies of the individual employees? Do you know the employees personally? Does the team know each other? Do everyone know the goal? What tools and technology are there at the team's locations? These are just some of the issues that need to be clarified in advance.

“The fish stinks from the head - this motto is especially true for virtual leadership. Anyone who fails to lay the groundwork in the virtual team at the beginning will catch up with it sooner or later. "

Managing virtual teams means: being able to inspire!

If you don't see each other regularly while working together, each team member develops inner images of the vision, of the goal, of the others - almost like reading a good book. A good virtual manager is like a good author; he ensures that vivid images and visions are created. In contrast to an author, however, his goal is that these images and visions are as identical as possible for every team member.

Managing virtual teams: how to promote collaboration!

I hear it again and again in my training courses on leading virtual teams: Every collaboration stands and falls with the interpersonal aspects. You are probably familiar with this analysis of how our communication is composed: 55 percent body language, 38 percent voice and tone and only 7 percent words. Now consider this for virtual teams and it becomes clear that words and tone have to be used particularly well to ensure smooth collaboration.


Working in virtual teams and leading virtual teams requires particularly careful and conscious interaction with one another. These methods help to manage teams well virtually:

  • Repeat what has been said for a comparison.
  • Ask if something is unclear.
  • Avoid interpretation.

Managing virtual teams also means: Put the focus on people

In the case of virtual teams, there is often a lack of informal personal exchange. Here I recommend introducing the virtual coffee gossip. Small banter at the beginning of a teleconference is often stiff and therefore unsuitable. Try to get into the habit of calling another participant personally immediately after a conference and seeking an exchange. Ask about personal matters, his opinion on the phone call, what is particularly preoccupying him at the moment, in order to strengthen the relationship level in addition to the objective-functional exchange.

Conclusion: The more focus the virtual manager puts on preparation, the faster the team will come together and the more successfully it can be managed. In medium-sized companies in particular, it is important to work well together right from the start in order to secure a competitive advantage. Anyone who thinks they can learn to lead a virtual team using the learning-by-doing process is mistaken. Managing virtual teams can be learned - for example in our seminars. Good luck with the application and implementation of the appropriate methods.

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