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HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL TEAM LEADER

By Richard Davies,Managing Director, GPSgoaltrak

 

The biggest challenge facing the leaders of virtual teams is how to engage,

align, build trust and ensure people are focused on the right priorities and working effectively – despite the fact they can’t physically see them during the working day.

 

Virtual teams are people who work across time, distance and organisational boundaries and connect primarily through digital communication.

 

It’s difficult to foster collaboration, coordination, share information and track the progress of remote team members when you don’t have the luxury of impromptu meetings or the social glue that comes from chitchat over coffee and the connection of working in the same location.

 

Richard Davies

Virtual leaders have to trust they have communicated effectively and that their team members feel supported to solve problems and use their initiative.

Each person must feel accountable, and it’s not easy for a leader to judge levels of commitment from a different time zone and cultural base.

 

Nearly 50% of organisations now rely on the work of virtual teams. Companies have come to depend on them to recruit and retain top talent, collaborate across boundaries and reduce travel costs. We live in an increasingly connected world.

 

Most virtual team leaders never receive in-depth holistic training to help them meet their unique challenges. And that’s a problem.

 

Over 24 years, first at Kellogg’s, then at Shell, I’ve either been a member or a leader of virtual teams that have spanned 20 countries across SE Asia, China, India, North America, and Europe. As I endeavored to overcome the challenges, I learned a few things that I’d like to share. I hope this can help you. My suggestions work equally well if your distributed team is based in one country.

 

I offer ideas in three areas – People, Process and Systems.

 

People

How to find out what makes people tick

It’s vital you get to know what makes your team members tick. I recommend you use a profiling tool. There are many available. Most are psychometric tests which are based on self-reporting online surveys.  I have used these tools to help people to appreciate their  behavioural preferences and how they differ from their virtual colleagues. I have experienced DISC, Insights, Belbin, I-Opt and Myer Briggs. While I have found them useful to varying degrees, I don’t believe any of them compare to the accuracy and usefulness of Axiometrics which reveals people’s values and how they make decisions. Each person takes a 15-minute online statement arranging thinking exercise which is proven to work across all cultures. An algorithm crunches through the numerical weightings attached to each of the 36 statements. After you receive a report and debrief, you can understand each person’s actual values and how they make decisions.  You will be many steps ahead of becoming a successful virtual team leader. You will be equipped to foster trust and will be informed about how to use the diverse thinking styles in your team.

 

How to connect your team to a purpose

You get higher productivity and increased energy when people are choosing to do things rather than having to do things. Listen to the language of your team. Do you hear people say ‘have to’ all the time? If so, it’s a signal that they are not engaged to a purpose. Here’s a simple and powerful exercise in crafting a compelling team purpose. Author Steve Radcliffe put forward a model for leadership called Future, Engage, Deliver (FED). In short, he recommends that you run an exercise with your team. Ask what they want the future to look like for the team, what will it have achieved – what will people be saying about the team? Energy levels are elevated when people talk about the future. A byproduct of this is that Engagement increases. Once people have agreed on a common vision for the future, they are more aligned and emotionally invested. As a result, people Deliver more since they know why they are working – guided to the agreed future state. The trouble is, most leaders go straight to the ‘Deliver Now’ mantra. You can appreciate the problem with this approach. You can use a series of video team calls to brainstorm this FED exercise or work in subgroups and report back to the full team.

 

Process

How to run effective virtual team meetings

Establish a recurring meeting schedule either weekly or fortnightly. Bear in mind time zones. Set up some established features for the agenda. I worked in a leadership team where the first agenda item was to share stories of recognition. People thanked colleagues or acknowledged something done by a direct report. This activity sets a positive tone. Leave ‘open space’ on the agenda, this allows people to bring up urgent and the most recent issues. These will always pop up – so it’s best to allow time for this in the design of the agenda.

 

Ahead of each meeting, ask people for ideas for the agenda. Allow time for discussion and don’t overcrowd the schedule. Alternate the ownership for each session. In a rotation, let each team member build the agenda and run the team meeting.

 

Systems

High-quality video meetings are a must. I recommend Zoom. Using an incredibly stable system makes life easy. The other essential is team storage/chat/knowledge centre. Create a space where your team can exchange ideas and inspire one another. An online workspace ensures that while different team members are working relatively independently, they can see the progress of other team members. I recommend you look at Slack, Evernote or Dropbox (if you mainly need to share files).

 

 

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Business

THE EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL COST OF WORKING WITH OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY

technology

Slow Tech Could Waste 24 Hours of Worktime a Year

In this digital age, businesses are hugely reliant on technology to get work done. And this is especially the case for one-man-bands and small home-based businesses who may count on a single computer to keep things running smoothly from their home office space.

This said, if the technology at hand is slow or outdated, it could become more of a hinderance than a help. Investing in upgraded tech may seem like a steep expense, however, delays cost time and time is money. In fact, recent research looking at the impact of tech troubles in the workplace found that delays caused by slow technology could add up to a hefty 24 days’ worth of worktime a year per person.

Here’s why keeping hold of outdated tech when its past its best could cost your business in the long run.

 

The biggest tech hold-ups

Delving deeper into the research, it’s evident that the most time can be lost on some of the smallest of tasks. Simply waiting for your computer to boot up, for example, can add up to 8.8 days of lost time over the space of a year (17 minutes a day), while 8.5 days can be lost to opening emails (16.5 minutes a day).  Slow software has the most to answer for, however, contributing 10.4 days’ worth of wasted worktime (20 minutes a day). When you think about your own day rate or that of an employee’s, this lost time all adds up to some serious money, right? Probably more than it would cost to upgrade your tech.

Productivity can suffer too

Glitchy tech may not only cost your business time and money; productivity can take a serious hit too. According to the study, a third of workers admit losing motivation when they have to wait on tech to respond. And this comes as no surprise. When faced with freezing programmes and buffering browsers every day, frustration can build up. And when someone’s suffering frustration, productivity and motivation can drop. As a result, it may turn out it’s not just the tech that is slowing down tasks, but a reduction in employee efficiency too.

Tech expert and anti-futurist, Theo Priestley, argues that the issues caused by outdated tech at work can even have a negative effect on someone’s work-life balance and wellbeing. He explains, “not being able to complete work or feel productive or have a sense of accomplishment in a task can be a stressful experience. And depending on the nature of the work, more often than not, employees will need to work additional hours to compensate for the wasted time, which has a knock-on impact on personal and family life.”

 

Outdated tech can put your business at risk

Beyond the costs to your business, outdated tech can also put it at increased risk of cybercrime. The older the technology, the easier it is for hackers to exploit it. What’s more, if you don’t update your security software regularly, it won’t be equipped to address the latest security threats.

Priestley explains “outdated technology and software means easy exploitation from inside and outside the organisation. If you’re not using the latest versions of operating systems, or software that you’ve invested in, then there’s greater chance for someone to exploit known weaknesses in that system and expose or steal data or valuable company information from them.”

 

What is the solution?

Regularly assess what condition your hardware and software are in and where delays are occurring. If you find yourself waiting on the same problem day in day out, it’s probably time to do something about it. But how often should you be upgrading your IT equipment?

In general, a computer being used for business could do with being upgraded every two to three years for optimal performance. Alternatively, sometimes simply upgrading the memory or hard drive can help applications run more quickly. Any other equipment such as printers, keyboards, etc. only really need to be replaced when they break.

As for software, upgrade it regularly. While it can be a temptation to stick with older versions that you’ve grown accustomed to, the newer versions will offer improved capabilities, efficiency and security.

While computers slowing down over time seems inevitable and something that we’ve accepted will happen, it’s important for businesses to recognise the problem can have a bigger knock-on effect than you may think. By investing in updated, efficient technology, the savings experienced via productivity are likely to vastly outweigh the price of the tech itself. So, next time your computer freezes, perhaps consider whether it’s time for an upgrade.

 

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Business

OFFSHORE COMPANY FORMATION TACTICS FOR SMEs

Company

James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little

 

Starting a business brings with it its own set of challenges, as well as opportunities. But when setting up a business, the where is often as important as the how, and knowing what to expect in terms of company formation regulations and requirements is key, so you can start your entrepreneurial journey on the right foot.

 

James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little, takes us through what we need to consider when it comes to offshore company formation, and the benefits it can offer start-ups and SMEs.

 

“Despite what the media will have you believe, there are numerous legitimate reasons to use an offshore company. Offshore companies can often provide SMEs with access to better infrastructure and legal frameworks. Regulations in different parts of the world could prove to be restrictive for businesses by preventing foreign entities from launching factories, buying property or investing in local companies. In this instance, setting up an offshore company can help in completing transactions and provide you with the ability to hold any local assets necessary,” says James.

 

“However, one of the fundamental reasons for setting up an offshore company is often privacy. Moving assets or setting up a business is often done in a country that offers more tightly protected data security, has a robust legal framework and a network of service providers that streamline the setting up process. Switzerland is often the country of choice when it comes to privacy, as it’s synonymous with security and data privacy. Another reason SMEs should consider setting up an offshore company is tax efficiency. Tax advantages are offered by different jurisdictions. For example, Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates, while the Cayman Islands might be more ideal for freelancers who are looking to minimise the effective tax rate on their businesses,” adds James.

 

“Offshore companies provide SMEs with the ability to mitigate risks that arise from political instability or currency volatility. We have already seen businesses starting to register European entities in order to limit their exposure to the fallout that may result from Brexit. Whatever the reason, spreading your operations across jurisdictions may be the best long-term business strategy SMEs can adopt to secure future growth,” adds James.

 

Turner Little specialises in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of their specialists will be able to assist with any enquires, no matter how complex.

 

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