Leading Virtual Teams / Part 5 #LVT23

Nearing the end of Dr Maren Deepwell’s course, part 5 of the journey looks at “practical activities to foster a positive culture for hybrid and virtual teams” by exploring “a number of examples of online and blended activities and ‘hacks’ and consider how to meaningfully reward and motivate your team.”

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 5: Leading team activities

Icebreakers, activities, online chat, emoji responses, etc. There are lots of ways to use online tools to repeat, replace, or even enhance the kind of activities or facilitation you would normally use in a purely face-to-face environment.

NB: Not all of the above are necessarily relevant here, but they form part of my background and experience which I am building on as part of this course.


For this part of the course, I will follow the prompts for the reflection, these being:

  • How could you be 1% more comfortable at work?
    ‘Comfort’ in a work setting is not something I often think about. I am ‘comfortable’ in my role and my position within the organisation that one or two aspects of my daily activities may be ‘uncomfortable’, or that they may push me beyond my ‘comfort’ zone. These are more or less activities I cannot avoid because these are things that I am expected to do – provide critical feedback on someone else’s activities or as part of line management or a development framework, the need to ‘chivvy’ someone along to ensure timelines and deadlines are respected and achievable, etc.

    ‘Comfort’ in work can come from many different angles, whether it’s the physical comfort from my (home) working environment (see this status update from June, 2023 – this made my day very ‘comfortable’) or comfort from having a positive and productive conversation with those I line manage or from working with the business leaders.

    Changing ‘comfort’ at work will mean different things to different people. For me, I take this in a purely task-orientated way – comfort can come from clearer instructions, clearer guidelines or guidance on requirements, etc. Understanding the impact a project or task has on either my own time, my team’s time, or how it fits in with the growth or strategy of the business gives the task direction and added meaning/emphasis. While it may not always be easy or obvious what the task or project may be adding, and I’ll do my job either way, the psychological impact this knowledge can have will certainly make me more ‘comfortable’.

  • What would work for your team? Why would it work?
    As above, clear guidance and instructions for their input, and transparent leadership enable them to have responsibilities for their actions and work, and the space for them to stretch and display their capabilities. All this can sometimes come at the cost of the dilution of perceived leadership or management, but I find it is far more empowering for both me and my team: stronger relationships, increased trust, and efficient working practices.

    This has been my style for a few years now, and I will continue to use it as I move forwards. I do ask for feedback from my reports and peers, reflecting on my own practice as I go, and developing or changing aspects as I find myself in different situations and scenarios.

  • What barriers do you have to work within (such as cost, institutional protocol, technical limitations etc)
    The majority of barriers I’ve encountered along the way are either historical (“we’ve always done it this way”) or management (“my way or no way”) led. Neither of these approaches help anyone or anything, and can often be the reason a project or plan will fail, simply that it’s been set up to fail because the will to grow isn’t there, so there’s no possibility to grow.

    All we’ve been talking about in this course is the will to change and adapt to new ways of working. If either of those two statements ring true for you, either you’ve heard them being said or you believe this is the attitude taken then remote work, projects, etc will not succeed.

  • What would you want to achieve?
    Trust. When you trust your colleague or manager you feel stronger and more able to try the things you believe – whether this is a new style of meeting or workshop planning, a different or contradictory approach to fixing a problem, or trusting that your peers will support you in something new or different.

    Trust is difficult to earn but very easy to destroy. It’s easy to talk about but very difficult to define. It’s easy to ask someone to trust you but very difficult (for some) to exhibit the characteristics that will actually make someone trust you.

  • Activity: Choose a particular activity of hack from the episode and reflect using the prompts above.
    I’ll have to come back to this one … regular readers will know that at the moment (June, 2023) I am between jobs due to redundancy at Edvanza.

One of the biggest successes for someone leading a virtual team is when individuals within the team take ownership of elements of the team culture. Organising activities and interventions for people is a nec- essary step towards this, but ultimately our aim must be to empower staff so that they can actively shape and continue to generate the kind of team spirit that everyone wants.

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