Sunday, November 13, 2011

Managing Virtual Teams

By Keith L. Scott, PMP, MBA
Today’s workforce is global. Obsolete are the days when team members sit in the same cubicle row in front of their manager’s office. Today’s project teams are working from home, across the city, on the other coast, or even in another continent in a different time zone. In the past, it was believed that to be an effective and efficient organization, team members should be located together. However, what is more important is that team members understand the project goals and objectives regardless if they interact and communicate in the traditional face-to-face manner.
As a project manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that deliverables and milestones are achieved on time and with the upmost quality. There are many moving parts to a virtual team which makes managing them that more difficult. Here are a few tips and techniques to follow:
1. Set project objectives and expectations for your team. Clearly communicate the project objectives, schedules, and individual roles and responsibilities. It is important that everyone knows what they are doing, how their work contributes to the project, what other team members need from them, and why.
Though everyone can work independently, it is important to constantly communicate the team’s objectives. Failure to do so can be catastrophic for the success of a project.
2. Set the tone early. At the beginning of the project it is crucial to let the team members know what is expected of them. Status reports, participation in conference calls, set hours of availability, and deliverable schedules are essential parts of managing virtual teams.
3. Understand and respect different cultures. This is very important if you are managing team members of different religions and/or in different countries. Honor your team member’s right for personal and religious practices.
4. Choose the right technology to foster communication. The anchor of every virtual team is the technology used to support communication. As gas prices soar, flying the team in for a meeting each week is not realistic. So in lieu of that online chat, conference calls and webinars are ideal. There are a number of technologies available such as AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft LiveMeeting, GoToMeeting®, and many other tools that support video and web conferencing. In addition, there are collaboration tools that allow team members to share and collaborate on documents such as Microsoft SharePoint.
5. Be specific about time commitments. Never leave something to chance. Make sure that all team members know when deliverables are due. You never want to remind them the day before and have them scramble to get something done before close of business (COB) the next day. In these instances, almost always the quality of the deliverable suffers.
6. Get the team together on occasion. Although it is expensive to bring remote teams together, it is a necessary element to managing a virtual team. In order to build and continue team chemistry,
gathering the team together strengthens personal relationships and working partnerships in both
the short and long term. Never underestimate the importance of team camaraderie and rapport.
7. 360-degree communication. The bottom line is quite simple – get out of the way. Trust your team
to make proper decisions by working with each other and not be the bottleneck by insisting that all
communication be channeled through you – the project manager.
Keith L. Scott is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Novel Management Group ( Novel is a certified Minority Business Enterprise management and technology consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, GA and an office location in McLean, VA.
© 2011 Novel Management Group LLC.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A green economy can be described as one that results in financial profitability, in benefit to our individual well-being and in reduced risk to the environment. Today, organizations such as Accenture, Coca-Cola, Ford, Marriott and Wal-Mart serve as leaders in the green economy by making environmental responsibility or "sustainability" an integral part of their business strategies. These companies strive to achieve interaction among financial, social and environmental risks and opportunities across their value chains; and are collaborating with value chain participants to develop environmentally responsible innovations.

Dr. Leonard Greenhalgh, Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College was one of the speakers at the 2011 Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference (MED Week 2011). In his presentation entitled Strategy for Growth in the Green Economy, Greenhalgh shared his insights on how getting involved in the green economy would be a profitable strategy for minority businesses. According to Dr. Greenhalgh, being able to identify how sustainability opportunities and risks travel through the extended value chain will help owners of minority businesses to investigate those issues or areas where the financial impact aligns with environmental priority.


Sustainable business models are based upon the need or desire to reduce, or find substitutes for resources such as energy and water. This effort creates a powerful driver for developing innovative products and operating models. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, is intensely focused on water stewardship. Water is the main ingredient in their products and is also an important part of their manufacturing processes. As a result, the company focuses its efforts on water stewardship in three areas: improving water efficiency; recycling water used in their operations (wastewater treatment); and on community access to water including watershed restoration and protection.

Water, together with the other natural resources are essential to the operations of businesses; and innovative companies like Coca-Cola have developed solutions for achieving more sustainable management of these critical supplies. These companies have acted expeditiously on sustainability issues and have accelerated beyond their peers.

Some companies may not consider water to be a sustainability issue or a financial risk. However, the World Bank estimates that of the approximately seven billion people in the world, as many as two billion people lack adequate facilities that would protect them from water-borne diseases; while one billion lack access to clean water altogether. The United Nations also projected that the world population will surpass nine billion by 2050. This growth in the population and the anticipated increase in pollution could easily create a situation where access to clean water may be significantly limited.

Minority owned businesses can succeed in the green economy by following and collaborating with leaders - Accenture, Coca-Cola, Ford, Marriott and Wal-Mart. Companies that develop sustainability strategies to identify and maximize opportunities in the green economy will undoubtedly enhance revenue and strengthen brand value.

Click on the image below and watch Dr. Greenhalgh share his insights on this issue.


As always, your comments are welcome and will be posted on the Good Foodie blog!

Nadine Bartholomew
The Good Foodie

For Effective Leadership, Understand Your Style

By Glenn Gutek

At the risk of placing substance over style, all leaders must understand this simple truth: style does matter. It is not about matching your belt to your shoes, or accessorizing appropriately for the occasion, but rather understanding the way you go about leading. 
Allen rose through the ranks of the military with great ease and retired young with a high rank.  Properly prepared for his transition into civilian life, Allen was able to land a great opportunity with an upstart tech firm in the mid-west. Everyone was confident his previous leadership performance would translate to the battlefield of competitive software development. Within months it became obvious that the members of Allen’s team were not responsive to the command and control leadership style that Allen was comfortable exercising. 
Allen’s story is not uncommon. Effective leadership in one field or with one team does not always translate to effective leadership with another team or another field.  The complexity of the marketplace has prompted the importance of knowing your leadership style and discerning the style that a team will easily respond to. The distinctions of leadership styles could be endless; however, the following six styles are the most prominent in the workforce today. 

Charismatic: This is leadership by infusion of energy often embodied in the personality of the leader. This leadership style may encompass a wide swath of personalities, but the common ingredient is that the energy ushered in by the leader is closely connected to the leader herself or himself. Once Elvis leaves the building, so does some of that infectious energy!
Over the years, this style has been both praised and panned, but any study of leadership must recognize that there is value to those who bring energy to an organization by their sheer presence. The downside of this leadership is the reality that some teams don’t need to speed things up, but rather slow things down. The charismatic leader is an excellent vision-caster and can elicit a loyal and passionate following.   Where this style will often fall short is in the attention to details.

Technician: This is leadership by displaying both knowledge and skill. This style is highly valued in cultures where competence is high in economic value. It is leading by simply being the best producer of what your organization produces.  This leadership style can influence their arena with an impeccable reputation, and sets the bar for the standard of work quality.
There are limits this style has in being replicated throughout an organization.  Some leaders who strongly employ this style can in time be a little like the “Wizard of Oz,” hiding behind the curtain, pulling strings, leaving everyone to wonder “how does he/she do it?”  Nobody can argue with the value quality plays in any arena. Keep in mind there is a distinction between leading the best, and being the best.

Strategic: This is leadership by connecting the dots. This style is embodied in people who tend to be global and conceptual thinkers. They not only are able to see the end destination, but they know the path to get there must be identified and paved. Tragically, this style can be marred by the blues, because not only do strategic leaders see what could be, they see what is not.

Team Builder: Here, leadership is by roles and unity. This style recognizes that you can’t just assemble any group of people and claim you have a team. This leadership style is employed by people who look at people individually and find individual roles for them to fill. At the same time, they align these individuals into a cohesive whole.

Managerial: This is leadership by systems. This style focuses on doing things right. Processes and systems are designed and understood so that current operations function consistently. Though some would argue that managers are not leaders, you have to acknowledge that effective managers have a profound influence on those that surround them. In fact, they have the capacity to lead a culture that prizes management, even at the expense of effectiveness.

Directive: Here we have leadership by control. This style was once enamored with the industrial revolution. In recent years, it has been stated that command and control are no longer cherished. However, any organization in crisis would love to have a directive leader step forward and bring order out of chaos. There is still a need for directive leaders.

How to employ your understanding of leadership styles
 The most important thing to be understood when examining the concept of leadership styles is to recognize that there are circumstances where certain styles flourish and others where they flounder. In days of old, the common philosophy was to master all of these styles. “A man for all seasons” was the fantasy of owners, entrepreneurs, and executives.
Today, the world is way too diverse and complex; and truthfully, nobody was ever excellent at all styles. Most writers on the subject these days encourage you to know your style and function in an environment where your style will flourish. As a leader, not only should you know your natural style, but you should also know the “shadow side” of that style: How does your winning formula undermine your effectiveness? Typically, a leader’s ineffectiveness will not be exposed, even if one of their weaknesses is revealed. Ineffectiveness will shine when your strength runs a muck.  There is an old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, than the whole world looks like a nail. Some of the biggest mistakes in leadership are when you are using a hammer when sand paper is required.
Effective leadership in today’s diverse culture will require a team approach, and teams require diverse leadership styles. By not only employing the best leadership style for you, but also knowing when to adapt to other styles, you can effectively lead your team to success.

Glenn Gutek is a speaker and CEO of Awake Consulting & Coaching, a firm that helps small businesses and organizations improve their leadership and business development through training, development and coaching. He is also the author of “Wide-Awake Leadership,” which teaches leaders how to overcome mediocrity though effective leadership. For more information on speaking and consulting, please visit or contact Glenn at or 407-901-4357.