The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many leaders and managers at the deep end of virtual team management. In theory, remote work lets the employers welcome the best talent on board with no geographical boundaries, build a dream team. But, it’s not so rosy after all in practical situations. From taking care of the team to staying atop the progress to meet the goals, a manager has a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. A Udemy course on ‘how to manage and influence your virtual team’ is an ideal solution to help them pass this testing phase.
Being a remote team manager myself, I am aware of the challenges that we face and are not even prepared for. To empower and manage my team, I took this course by Mr. Hassan Osman and learned in great detail about the nuances of remote team management. This blog is essentially the review of the course– ‘how to manage and influence your virtual team.’
The review illustrates the main content covered in the course, the major takeaways, how can a leader benefit from it, and the verdict to sum-up the overall review. Let’s begin by unraveling the course content in detail:
What does the course ‘How to manage and influence your virtual team’ cover?
How do you communicate effectively virtually?
Communication is the sustenance of efficient virtual teams. However, it’s not as easy as conveying a message in your co-located office space. More often than not, misinterpreted messages via asynchronous or synchronous channels can lead to team conflicts or discrepancies bringing your productivity to a grinding halt. In-person communication, hands down, is the most effective. But, since that is not possible is a virtual set-up, leaders need to ensure that they communicate with their team with clarity.
This is what the first module of the course talks about. It is explained in-depth in the following chapters:
Communication is everything
The first chapter emphasizes the ‘psychology of communication in virtual teams’. It explains how communication is the only vital link that keeps the team connected and gives the members- a sense of belonging. It is the deciding factor that can either make or break your team. The chapter is an overall gist of the significance of communication in remote teams, what challenges leaders face while managing remote teams, and also the issues faced by the virtual teams.
The pyramid of communication
This is one of my favorite sections from the course. It explains the role of technology in communication. So, the pyramid shows different levels and how they help in maintaining the proximity with your team. For instance, email is at the bottom level, and face-to-face interactions at the topmost level of the pyramid. Osman explains how the right mix of every level will keep the team connected.
The curse of knowledge
The curse of knowledge deals with the psychological aspect of communication. How a manager shares his/her wealth of knowledge makes a lot of difference. For example, there is a technical term you are discussing and you assume your team will have an idea about it. However, all the listeners could hear was some bizarre morse code. This can negatively impact communication with your team. You will learn here how to recreate your team’s mindset and help them understand what you know.
The 3 responses to questions
According to Hassan, there are three ways of addressing a query- good, bad, and ugly. He explains with clear cut examples on how to stick to a good way of answering and make your employees feel heard and valued. This marks the end of the 1st chapter. Now, let’s get onto the next chapter:
Principles of Behavior change
Your behavior towards your team decides your team members’ reactions and behavior towards you. Fostering trust, confidence, and accountability will make them feel valued and they will work towards reaching the goal with all their might.
This module is about the principles of behavior change. Take my word for it, it will give you an altogether different perspective towards leadership and help you apply these principles to nurture a strong virtual team.
These are chapters covered in the module:
Intro to the principles of behavior change
This chapter sets the tone for the entire module. Here, Osman talks about the 4 major principles of behavior change and how to implement them in your virtual work set-up.
The power of deadlines
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This adage is known as the Parkinsons’ law and is also an ultimate reason why people procrastinate. For instance, you have given a week for a miniature task (that can be completed in a day’s time) to your employee. What will happen? Obviously, he/she will procrastinate, make it more complex, and divert it from the original state. To avoid this, how setting deadlines can have a positive impact is what is explained in this chapter. I was amazed to see the difference in my team’s productivity after I started setting realistic deadlines.
The power of assigning responsibility
An amazing explanation has been given to explain how assigning responsibility and holding your resources responsible for their tasks and actions can improve their performance and productivity.
The power of specific tasks
This one is no rocket science to understand. Leaders have to convey the tasks and goals with the utmost clarity to eliminate ambiguity. Hassan gives some actionable tips on how to assign tasks to your virtual team.
The power of writing
When you have your tasks documented for each member, it definitely has some advantages. The priorities and deadlines will be clear, there is no chance of important tasks being overlooked, and so on. All these benefits are illustrated in this chapter.
Tactics of influence and persuasion
The six famous principles by Robert Cialdini that will be specified in the coming sections form the crux of this module. When you are a leader, you need to have a strong influence over your team members so that they show commitment towards the company’s goals.
I believe, building this influence over your team is the most crucial aspect of leadership. After all, only when your workforce believes in you, will they work for you and the firm.
Let’s see the breakdown of chapters here:
As the name suggests, Osman introduces the overall module and gives an overview of the chapters covered.
Chapter 2 & 3: Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence
The next two chapters cover the 6 principles- Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, and Consensus. I was amazed by how Osman has related these theories and principles with practical situations. These principles help you manage and influence your team in a better way. For instance, if you respect and value your team members, they will reciprocate the same (the principle of reciprocity applies here). Similarly, the other principles are implemented and Osman explains how to use them to influence your virtual teams.
The influential power of the word
One of the most famous studies- the ‘Xerox study’ by Ellen Langer explains the power of the word ‘because’ and Mr. Osman has done a great job relating it to managing virtual teams. It’s true when you give a rationale to the employees, they will know why they are doing what they are doing. For example, ‘Please finish this blog by Monday, because it has to go live as a pillar page content by Wednesday’. Once we have stated why it is that their task is so important, they will put the right amount of effort into finishing it.
6 steps to ensure commitment
Getting things done is our major responsibility as leaders. But, how do we ensure a 100% commitment from our employees when they are dispersed across boundaries? This question is answered very well in this chapter, There are 6 given steps to ensure commitment. And I tried the script he has given to do so. Guess what! It works wonders.
How to know what they are really thinking
Taking care of your employees is your first priority. So, understanding them, knowing their thought process is equally important as getting things done. You will learn a simple 2 step process that has 4 questions to get the key to your employees’ minds and thoughts.
How to lead remote teams effectively
Now that we are all based in different locations, the number of meetings to plan projects, discuss agendas, one-on-ones to stay connected and address concerns just increase substantially. But, let’s face this, are they all effective? Are you able to do justice to the time spent during brainstorming or is it simply a waste of time?
Osman explains the problems faced during virtual meetings and how to conduct them effectively in this particular module.
Beginning with a basic introduction, Osman covers the following chapters:
Before the meeting
Documenting an agenda decides the course of every meeting. There is a detailed explanation of this with a template example to make it easy.
During the meeting
Mr. Hassan discusses 5 things to be done during the meeting to keep everyone focused on their tasks. He has also shared a downloadable Microsoft Minute template, which, trust me, is really beneficial to keep the track.
After the meeting
Discussing agendas and tasks is the first step, following up, the second. We learn how to conduct these follow-ups to ensure they are committed and stay on track.
Meeting scheduling guidelines
This section is really important as it explains how to schedule meetings. Four best practices are discussed in-depth to reduce the number of unnecessary meetings and enhance productivity. I liked this module a lot as it helped me structure my meetings better and save time.
Choosing and Evaluating the Right Technology
Technology is the bread and butter of successful virtual teams. But are we selecting the right technology for our firms? Are these tools helping us to build our virtual dream team? Are we solving or creating problems for our employees?
These questions are always there at the back of every remote team leader. Kudos to Oman who came to our rescue and helped us solve this ordeal.
After introducing the importance of selecting and evaluating the right technology, he covers the following sections:
Why choosing the perfect tool is hard
This is something we have been asking ourselves for ages. Osman answers this with a justified explanation as to why it is difficult to select the right tool to manage your virtual team.
The 7 golden rules for choosing your technology
I have literally mugged up these 7 golden rules to select the right technology for my team. It is my new mantra! I am sure you will find these rules as powerful and beneficial as I found them.
The ultimate list of virtual team tools
To sum-up this section, Osman gave a well-crafted list of 40+ tech tools in different categories required to manage your teams effectively. Here is the list of categories:
- Collaboration Tools
- Project Management Tools
- Document Storage/ File Sharing Tools
- Meeting Tools
- High-End Video Conferencing Tools
- Video & Audio Conferencing Tools
- Instant Messaging Tools
- Document Co-creation Tools
- Social Network Tools
- Scheduling Tools
Building Trust in Virtual Environments
Lack of trust in your team can negatively affect the performance level. If you show a lack of trust in your employees, it will put their morale down that can lead to disengagement and low productivity.
Osman explains this vital part of remote team management in this module. After practicing these tactics, I saw a tremendous difference in my team members’ behavior and performance.
Once he explains what lack of trust can do to your virtual team, he covers the following chapters:
The secret formula for trust
When one is used to managing teams in co-located offices, you can’t blame them for having doubts about their workforce’s performance and progress. That being said, a lack of trust is not healthy. So leaders will learn a one-word rule for increasing trust. I won’t tell you what, let that be a surprise element for you!
How to increase reliability
Being reliable on your employees in brick and mortar is completely different. But when it comes to a virtual set-up, it’s not a piece of cake. We learn 4 tactics of increasing reliability in this chapter. When I implemented them, I felt the burden-reducing off my shoulders. Try it yourself.
How to increase likeability
Your employees look up to you for solutions addressing their concerns. Thus increasing likeability in your virtual team is critical. You will learn 5 different tips and tricks to do so.
After covering each chapter in detail, Mr. Hassan also sheds some light on email and phone techniques. Overall, this course has everything you need to effectively manage your virtual teams.
Here are the benefits that I availed after signing up for this course:
Benefits of taking this course
Applicable best practices for virtual teams
The course gives useful, practical, and feasible actionable insights to manage virtual teams. Right from communication tips and communication etiquette to fostering trust and reliability, the course teaches everything you need to learn to manage and influence your virtual teams.
Proven science-based research
One thing I liked the most here is that proven science-based research and theories support every chapter and tactic. For instance, the 6 principles by Cialdini piqued my interest and explained all my questions so well. I knew how to get things done after that.
Based on actionable insights (not just theory)
This one is the major benefit of the course. You are not just reading them, every tactic is practical and attainable. Every draft and template is another proof of these tips being feasible. After all, you don’t want these tips to look good only on paper. They need to provide you with what you are looking for.
How to manage and influence your virtual team: Final Verdict
This course on ‘How to manage and influence your virtual team’ is hands down, one of the most beneficial guides a remote team manager could ask for. It entails every aspect of virtual team management and gives effective measures to lead the remote teams. The pyramid of communication and 6 principles as I have already mentioned, are my favorite part of the course. Along with these tips, the downloadable material is a great help to make the task easy. For those who have just entered this realm of virtual remote management, this is the right course to learn from.
No one is born an expert. Everyone has to go through the learning process to gain expertise in their chosen niche. The same applies to the remote team leaders who were compelled to lead a remote team in these tough circumstances. Hence, courses like these are a great source of learning and help us navigate through these tough times.
This one on ‘How to manage and influence your virtual team’ is an ultimate guide to lead a remote team successfully. Using psychological research and other proven practices, Hassan Osman has provided actionable tips and insights on how to manage and influence your virtual team. It enhances a leader’s experience while managing the dispersed teams and helps him set an example for the next in-lines. What has been your experience in virtual team management so far?