A First-Time Manager’s Guide to Leading Virtual Teams

In the past, new managers often had the luxury of cutting their teeth on traditional collocated teams: groups of people, sitting down the hall from one another, who met up in conference rooms to hash out what they were trying to achieve and how to get there. Unfortunately, today’s increasingly global work environment does not always afford that luxury. Many first-time managers find themselves assigned to a team of subordinates scattered far and wide.

Managing a distributed team can feel overwhelming as it requires you to navigate many different types of distance: geographic, temporal, cultural, linguistic, and configurational (the relative number of members in each location). Every one of these dimensions affects team dynamics and, therefore, has an impact on effectiveness and performance as well. Daunting as that may seem, there is good news in the form of a large and ever-increasing body of research and best practices on how to increase your odds of success. But first, it’s important to understand which aspects of team dynamics are, and are not, affected by distance.

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