Leading Virtual Teams / Part 4 #LVT23

For part four of the LVT23 course, we’ll be looking at fostering a team culture, and “exploring the question ‘What do you want your team or organisation feel like on a day to day basis?’ and how do you achieve that.”

For ease of finding my posts, the below list will be updated with links as I write a supporting post of my own reflections:

Part 4: Fostering a shared team culture

The culture that exists within a team or business is something that can make or break the team or business.

Get it right and the sky is literally the limit – everyone feels happy about turning up to work, they feel invigorated and motivated in their work, and the effort and pride put into the work are above expected.

Get it wrong and you’ll soon know it. You’ll have a quiet team who chat privately but rarely with you, the energy and motivation will be at rock bottom, and productivity will be the bare minimum which will no doubt reflect the effort put in (if you’re lucky project will be completed, but barely. If you’re unlucky, projects will rarely be completed on time and often will overrun with what will often be silly or inconsequential excuses).

The people you hire into this team can, and will, make or break this culture. The way you set the team up (see the previous parts of this series) can give it the best start possible. The way you create opportunities for the team to work will enable and empower the team to succeed.


I’d be surprised if you, the reader, can’t already see a few examples in your own past that meet both of the above scenarios. We all have experience with both good and bad team cultures, we’ve experienced the way a team can change for the better or worse on the appointment and onboarding of a new colleague. Or even when a colleague leaves, the dynamic within the team changes as we modify our work and expectations, even particular duties to accommodate the change.

One wrong hire to the team changes the dynamic for the worse; the culture shifts from one where you may be inclusive and collaborative to one of competition and selfishness. Get it right and the right addition to the team brings a new level of enthusiasm and ideas that are being shared for everyone’s benefit.

If you have the luxury of taking a working and functioning in-person team to an online environment, then the task ahead is simpler than building it from scratch – you still need to put time and effort into the work, you still need to think carefully about how to run and lead the team, but if the team works already, then they can be (should be) part of this and empowered to help themselves.

Starting a remote team from scratch is difficult, but not impossible. If you have experience in recruiting in a fully online environment then the explanation of working and leading a fully online team is just an extension of this. This experience will help you identify the subtle cues you need to look out for, the way someone responds to questions or the way they handle a conversation … the interview becomes even more important when hiring for a remote team.

As I’ve outlined above, the hardest part of the team culture is the way it changes when someone leaves or someone new joins it. Recruiting into an already cohesive and successful team is difficult – sometimes the best candidate is not the best person to appoint; if they can do the work but you think they will not be a good fit for the team, do you appoint anyway and suffer the consequences, or consider the team and look to prevent possible personality clashes? It’s not an easy choice to make, but a very important one to get right.

Creating the right kind of feel in your virtual workplace is a big challenge for any leader or manager and in order to get it right, you need the right kind of leadership. Leading a virtual team requires even experienced managers to adapt their approach, especially if the bulk of their professional experience comes from managing staff in person

Deepwell, M. (2022) “Leading virtual teams. field notes from a CEO,” Research in Learning Technology, p. 73. Available at: https://doi.org/10.25304/alt.2022.01

Image source: David Hopkins / Twitter