The penny dropped recently that I have been working in virtual teams for nearly 15 years. Like many other people I started working virtually because of a major change in the company where I worked. It merged with another one. Suddenly people, formerly in different companies in different countries, had to agree how to work together. The only way it could be done was over the phone.
When I first started doing teleconferences there were rules of thumb that said things like “Don’t have more than 3 people in a teleconference”. That idea that would be laughable now. Even then we had 17 people in 8 different locations on the calls. We all learned as we went along and made it work.
More, not less
In many companies these days virtual working is the norm rather than the exception and we must build relationships quickly with people we may never meet in the flesh. These people may not be in our country, our timezone or even in our organisation. This often raises cultural issues that we must deal with, such as getting input from people contributing in a second language or having a different ethos. We must also do this without any of the body language clues that we rely on in everyday life.
Penny Pullan published a book earlier this year on Virtual Leadership, a book which would have made the world of difference to me when I started. Penny interviewed me for a case study for her book and also for her online summit on virtual working. The questions I was asked during the summit form the basis of upcoming posts.