Managing virtual teams

One of the most useful things I learnt about groups and teams while studying for B628 was the concept of the virtual team. I had been managing a small virtual team myself, and was experiencing many problems.

The section on virtual teams in chapter 8 of the B628 course book was invaluable for me in learning how to avoid similar problems in the future, and in fact my second TMA for B628 was about resolving a virtual team problem.

Some of the key needs of a virtual team:

  • Building an maintenance of trust between members.
  • Accountability of individual team members.
  • Clear and distinct team identity.
  • Multicultural considerations.

There are lots of tips in the chapter on how to address these key needs. Well worth revising on a regular basis.

I’m hoping that one of my next courses, B325 Managing across organisational and cultural boundaries, will go into this in much more detail – making me something of an expert in managing virtual teams!

Contextual leadership

One of the most interesting things I read about leadership in the B628 course book was the observation that modern approaches to leadership see it as being highly contextual. Different leaders taking part and playing different roles at different times. There are no fixed qualities that make one person a leader, and there are no guarantees that one person will be a leader in all situation at all times.

Leadership is about tackling three core issues:

Strategic issues: the results the organisation seeks, including what direction the organisation should take, what opportunites and threats should be considered, etc.

Task issues: the individual tasks the organisation needs to carry out in order for it to achieve its results.

People or maintenance issues: the relationships between leaders and their followers, including morale, motivation, and cohesion.

Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory is another theory of motivation that has received criticism, but this was a real eye-opener for me.

The central idea for Motivation-Hygiene Theory is that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not part of a single continuum. What this means is that an improvement in satisfaction does not automatically result in a decrease in dissatisfaction; and conversely, improvement in areas causing dissatisfaction (known as ‘hygiene factors’) will result in less dissatisfaction, but not automatically result in a corresponding increase in satisfaction.

For the manager, a knowledge of Motivation-Hygiene Theory raises an awareness of the necessity to address both sides of the balance – i.e. improve hygiene factors to reduce dissatisfaction, but also improve motivation factors to increase satisfaction.

Effort and reward in motivation

According the B628 course book, Expectancy Theory, proposed by Vroom (1964) is a well-regarded theory of motivation. It’s central premise is that we act expecting certain outcomes, based on our past experiences. Vroom argues that it is not just the promise of a reward that is motivating, but instead, the link between effort and reward.

Rewards must be in line with effort, and the reward must be seen to be achievable in order for the reward to be motivating. Conversely, costs must also seen as avoidable in order for them not be demotivating.

In short, the links must be clear and strong for a reward or cost to have a motivating or demotivating effect.

The assumption is that the person being motivated or demotivated actually wants the reward, or wishes to avoid the cost!