How to manage projects in virtual teams?

Sep 29, 2020 | #general, #remotework, #virtualmeetings, #virtualspacehero

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Key takeaways from a #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE
04.09.2020 | 15:00 CET

How to make your projects a success?

with Adriana Girdler (Cornerstone Dynamics) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (#virtualspacehero) 

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Benjamin Franklin 

Project managers are often posed with several challenges that can hinder the success of a project. There’s so much that goes into great project management, it’s hard to know where to start. Adriana Girdler (Project Management Ninja), together with Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (#virtualspacehero) discussed successful project management in virtual teams.

👉 What are the few critical skills every project manager needs to have to see consistent project success?
👉 How can we organise a virtual kick-off for your project? What do we need to consider?
👉 What are the best tips on how to identify, prevent, and manage project scope creep?
👉 What tools are absolutely necessary to manage a virtual project team?

In this LinkedIn live, these intriguing questions were discussed on project management in virtual teams!

If you want to watch the LinkedIn live recording, here it is 👇

5 critical areas every project manager needs to develop skills in

💡 Leadership & Coaching. A project manager is leading a group of people in order to reach an objective. In most projects there is a significant amount of interdependence between team members, and your role, as a project manager, is to bring people together and ensure that you coach them in the right direction.

„Project can be explained as a number of tasks that are not part of your daily routine. They have a beginning and  they are ending with a deliverable. Project management is not about software. It is about people.“ (Adriana Girdler)

💡 Psychology. Having a very good understanding of people’s behaviour is a valuable skill for a project manager. In order to lead a group of people, it is important to understand their personalities, and behaviours. Having basic understanding of psychology will help you understand team dynamics.

„With my students I talk a lot about roles in project management,  personality type, or what role they could take and how they want to work together  in project management. It is important to start a project properly to understand each other well.“ (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

💡 Time Management & Organization. If you are a project manager, you are responsible for your team and the tasks during the project. Therefore, you should be organized and timely because your team won’t do it for you. Setting up objectives, deadlines, assigning tasks to team members, and coordinating everything together requires strong organizational and time management skills.

„If you cannot manage the time and organization properly, your team will not do it either. It would look like you are a parent who smokes and tells the kids that smoking is bad for their health. This is why YOU must lead by example.“ (Adriana Girdler)

💡 Discipline. As a project manager you have to be disciplined. You need to always be organized and follow-through. If you are not disciplined, and you do your organizational tasks occasionally, the project will not be successful. 

💡 Negotiation skills. A project manager is also tasked with communication activities. You will have to communicate with both your team members and external people/stakeholders who want to add to your project. Usually, people who are working in a project organisation have in their daily life again another manager. To coordinate all of this you have to be a good negotiator. Read more on Must-have personality traits for a Successful Project Manager. 

How do you organize a virtual kick-off for a project?

💡 Prepare in advance. You can organize an in-presence meeting, present the information that you have, and set up the expectations and work packages. But, when you have a virtual team, it gets a bit tricky. Prepare everything in advance, then schedule the virtual meeting. For effective virtual meetings take a look at our previous #virtualspacehero blog posts on How to encourage people to actually participate in virtual meetings? and Heaven or hell? How can I run better meetings in the virtual space?

💡 Use fun activities for virtual kick-off. You can start with introduction exercises but make sure it has a point. For example, you can tie an introduction exercise with the people doing the project. Ask yourself: how does this exercise connect with what we as a team are trying to achieve?

„Doesn’t matter which exercise you will do at your virtual kick-off meeting. But, make sure you tie it to the point you are trying to do professionally.“ (Adriana Girdler)

💡 Contribute to co-created psychological safety in your kick-off meeting. You can create the expectation list in your team. Tell your team what are your expectations of your team members: open and honest dialog, treating other team members with respect, and inclusion. This is how you build trust in a virtual team. Read more in our #virtualspacehero blog post on Lost in Connection or not? Trust and belonging in a virtual team.

💡 Have guidelines & rules. Guidelines mean that you guide or coach people. You give them choice and advice. But, at the end of the day, you should have basic rules too. For example, tell your team members in advance to switch on their camera during an online meeting and give them valid reasons to do so. 

💡 Address the challenges right away.  Do not leave your problems unattended. Every team is diverse and every person has its own opinion and their unique way of doing things. Sometimes conflicts can arise. That’s why you should not sit aside and wait for it to become an obstacle for project success. Have an honest conversation with your team members and talk about challenges the moment they appear.

💡 Eliminate the scope creep and set your project for success. Firstly, be clear about what the scope of a project is. Envolve the project owner and steering committee. Secondly, you should have a priority matrix. Ask yourself: what are my priorities for the project? Yous should have clear goals, set up the budget for the project and organize everything in advance.

Our Advice:

Practice your people-skills, reflect and ask for feedback, be organized and disciplined. But, most importantly, have courage to speak honestly with your team members!
Set yourself for SUCCESS!

💡 Resources 💡

Tom Henkel et al. (2019): An Insight to Project Manager Personality Traits. In: Graziadio Business Review. 22(2)
Keith Ferrazzi: Getting Virtual Teams Right. In: Harvard Business Review
Mark Mortensen / Michael O’Leary: Managing a Virtual Team. In: Harvard Business Review
GreyCampus: Must-have personality traits for a Successful Project Manager

eBooks and Books:

Brett Harned: A Guide to Project Management  
Zapier Team: The Ultimate Guide to Project Management  
Netguru: Project Management Tactics for Pros 
Brad Egeland: 7 Deadly Sins of Project Management  
Stephen R. Covey (2000): The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Videos & Podcasts

Adriana Girdler:  YouTube Channel
Adriana Girdler: Free Online Training
International Institute for Learning (IIL)
People and Projects Podcast
The PM Podcast

Tools & Apps for Project Management

Active Collab
Microsoft Project



Adriana Girdler

Adriana Girdler

Since founding CornerStone Dynamics in 2008, Adriana has been cited as Canada’s foremost business productivity expert. She has been featured and quoted in radio, television, newspapers and leading-edge trade magazines. She is a TEDx speaker, Huff Post and Thrive Global contributor.

Blog Team

Tamara Mladenovic

Tamara Mladenovic





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