I attended the “unconference” of HREvolution 2011 that was held in Atlanta this past weekend. I attended a very interactive discussion on managing virtual teams (aka telecommuting) that was conducted by Eric Winegardner of Monster.Com. He and his team are “road warriors” so he spoke about his personal experience in managing his team. The message I got is that effective management of a virtual team is about three things: Expectations, Enabling, and Expenses. Let me explain.
- You have to have high expectations for your virtual team. You need to expect high productivity. You have to expect high work ethic. You have to expect people to manage time and resources well. With these expectations you have to set goals and expect them to meet them.
- To help your virtual team to accomplish those goals and meet those expectations you have to enable them. Tools are important for effective work. People have to have the computers, phones, cards, and devices that enable them to work at their home office, customer sites, coffee shops, airports, airplanes, or wherever else they can connect and work. If you do not enable them then you cannot demand the level of productivity you would want.
- The third E in my list was expenses. Eric operates by the not allowing the thoughts of “pennywise, pound foolish” to get in the way of his employees’ work. Losing hours of productivity for want of a connection device that costs $70 per month is being pennywise and pound foolish. Allowing an Internet connection to go unpaid because the employee happens to be out on maternity leave is being pennywise and pound foolish. Not having a wireless device because others in the company don’t have it or it is not appropriate for their “level” is being pennywise and pound foolish.
One other thing emphasized by Eric is the concept of TEAM. Just because people work remote and seldom see each other does not mean that they don’t want to have a connection to the people they work with. So Eric’s team has virtual meetings on a frequent basis. Additionally Eric insures that they get together face-to-face occassionally as well. He also does other things to promote “team”. One example was that everyone submitted a picture of their home “office” and then everyone had to guess who belonged to which office. Eric also found that it was a good way to see if everyone had the tools they needed sitting there and if not he took care of it. Creative!
So if you are a “road warrior” manager of a virtual team remember the three E’s listed above:
- Expectations. Set them high and expect achievement.
- Enable. Give people the tools necessary for them to reach that level of achievement.
- Expenses. Go to the mat to keep your people from being nickel and dimes to death. Spending money will make you money.
My thanks to Eric Winegardner for his excellent presentation. He brings a fourth E to his virtual team and that is ENTHUSIASM.