This week I’m continuing the conversation about leading virtual teams with John Hall and Raghu Viswanathan, senior vice president and vice president, respectively, at a global technology company. John’s closing comment from last week is our starting point:
“If you don’t have the right leader, it’s really hard to execute, regardless of all the phone calls you make.”
Karen: Let’s talk more about that leader. What are the skills and characteristics you’re looking for in leaders of virtual teams?
Raghu: First of all, they’ve got to be senior people who understand how to bridge work differences between countries. They need to be able to translate things back and forth – so if we come up with a strategic initiative in the US and it needs to be executed in China, someone has to translate that down there. At the same time if there are problems in China we need to have those lifted up to us. Of course, you’ve got to have all the managerial and execution skills that you’d expect from a leader. But for me the key is that ability to stay connected and be a bridge.
John: It’s a tough job, because you need to be able to straddle the fence. When somebody says, I know what’s best for my market, and on the other side of the fence you’ve got us saying, but this is how we’re going to do it globally, that manager is in the middle. You’ve got to have the skill set to negotiate and communicate in both directions. And those people are hard to find, because every company wants them.
Karen: What advice would you give someone who was stepping into the position of leading a virtual team for the first time?
John: I’d say three things.
Your turn: What about you? What would you say are the critical skills and capacities needed by leaders of virtual teams? What advice would you give those leaders? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And tune in next week to hear how John and Raghu use centering practices to be more effective in leading virtual teams!