January 15

Managing virtual teams



Communication relies strongly on non-verbal signs that can be overlooked during web-based meetings. Especially at the beginning of a project or when you start in a new managerial role, when people don’t know each other and have to learn to read the different cultural and individual clues, it is recommended to organize a personal meeting to build trust between the individuals.
You are going through some drastic changes? You need to get some hard messages across to your team or employees? In this case you might be tempted to write a short email, but face-to-face communication will help you react faster to the arising insecurity and address open point adequately.
Next to trust, face-to-face availability is also a sign of respect. By making the effort to visit locally you show recognition for the work and effort the people working for you and with you contribute on a daily basis. This becomes more and more true when we outsource work.


Video- and teleconferences have revolutioned our way of working. They are definitely more cost-efficient then organizing personal meetings, but they bear a multitude of pitfalls, that need to be avoided if the advantages shan’t become disadvantages:

  1. Underestimating the competitive advantage of native speakersAs a native speaker, English doesn’t bear any surprises. You understand all the finesses of the language and you master a variety of vocabulary. But exactly this advantage can become a liability, as other might have difficulty understanding the complexity of your speech. Therefore speak slowly, avoid humor or cynicism, restate your key messages, and check for understanding.
  2. Overestimating the topic you want to inform people aboutSpeaking about the latest figures of Azerbaijan might be your favorite topic, but if you are the only person to speak on the phone, you should start to worry. Not seeing your audience might lead you to miss clues on people not listening or, even more common, following other activities. To avoid this pitfall vary the tone of your voice, make sure to include the other participants by asking questions, and check regularly if some topics need to be discussed further.
  3. Relying only on the spoken wordCultural difference, language skills, differing obligations, but also different time zones make it often difficult for all parties to participate adequately to teleconferences. Luckily other means of communication exist that supplement it: minutes of meeting are of course a must, but simultaneous instant messaging or surveys enable to gather opinions from people less inclined to speak up. Next to that video-/teleconferences can be recorded so that their content can be shared asynchronously.


• Always enter a descriptive subject line. If adequate specify there what you expect people to do as a reaction to your email.
• Make sure that people receiving the email either have a clear action or some benefit out of reading your email. If none of these apply: remove them from the distribution list
• Keep it simple and short. Avoid acronyms, unknown words, and complex sentences. Never forget that your recipient might not master the language as well as you do. If the message is longer than one screen length, then reconsider your communication media.
• Remain diplomatic and soft. Written sentences very easily seem harsh, even if they seem factual to you. Use conjunctive and reductions to soften the tone of your email.
• Email are great to summarize decisions and clarify actions. They also help creating commitment.
• And don’t forget: very often a phone call is more personal than an email



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