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Selecting Virtual Managers

Selecting Virtual Managers
By Laura Ricci, MBA

In the work I've done to build virtual teams, I found two aptitudes of successful virtual managers. Using these criteria enables organizations to identify "star" performers for placement in a Virtual management role.

Who Are The Stars In The Virtual World?

For traditional site-based work, we’ve assumed that an Extrovert is a better people manager. Extroverts mold their message based on the reactions they receive in the moment, and are energized by interacting with people.

However, in a virtual environment, those skills are thwarted. E-mail requires delivery of a message without seeing the other person's reaction,and interacting through machines rather than person to person.

Surprisingly, it's Introverts who welcome e-mail as a respite from one-on-one meetings and welcome an e-mail correspondence as a substitute for meetings. Introverts expose more "personality" on-line, where they are able to use their writing skills to entertain as well as to inform. Introverts prefer to put together their thoughts and present them uninterrupted. They then focus on the reactions of the recipients knowing the recipient has first heard their entire message.

Robert is an Introvert. He breaks out in hives when he must speak at meetings, and has heart palpitations when asked to stand up in front of a group. His job required communication of some safety regulations to all new employees. His presentations of this information were notorious for their drone. Most attendees only remembered how painful it was to watch Robert suffer as a presenter.

When we shifted training to an on-line forum, I was shocked to see outstanding evaluations for Robert's presentation. The comments didn't jive with the presentations I'd seen, so I sat in on the next on-line training session Robert presented. I couldn't believe what I heard. No mumbling, no monotone, jokes highlighting the important topics, charming voice. Once Robert was relieved of the pressure to speak in public, and react to an audience, his presentation became animated and engaging.

I can usually tell whether a manager is an introvert or an extrovert by reading a log of their e-mail transmissions. The introverts have more complete explanations and spend time including elements to prevent miscommunication.

Extroverts tend to be brief, often too brief, leaving room for misinterpretation so that a "face to face" meeting is arranged to clarify issues. When I see one word replies to queries, I'm generally dealing with an extrovert who feels deflated and bored communicating without live interaction.
Perceptual Modality Plays a Role

The second attribute that contributes to virtual star's performance is a perceptual modality preference for auditory modalities. Perceptual Modality refers to the method you use to process information.

There are four perceptual modalities: Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Gustatory. We all use each of these modalities, but will lean heavily on one or two as our first choice when faced with a new situation. Seventy percent of the population leans toward a visual modality as their primary modality, 15 to 25 percent are tuned to auditory cues, leaving a small percentage using kinesthetic first. Gustatory is generally not a primary modality though some wine connoisseurs might disagree.³

Auditory accessors learn by hearing. They hear the words of an e-mail when they read. They come away from phone conference calls with a distinct impression about who harbors concerns and who supports the agenda. As one of my clients said, "You mean I'm getting a lot more out of these phone conference calls than the rest of the team?" Yup, exactly. Auditory accessors don't mind, and often relish, chatting on-line with people they've never met.

Visual accessors learn by seeing pictures. Visual accessors gain much more from a face to face meeting, and find phone conference calls tedious and boring. They are reluctant participants in on-line discussions.

When someone insists that virtual management will be impossible until bandwidth is sufficient for high quality video transmission, you can be sure they are a visual accessor.

Writing is clearly a requirement for a successful Virtual Manager. The best Virtual Managers PREFER writing to meetings. They will tell you it is because there is a written record of all instructions for folks to refer to, but it also is their most comfortable and efficient method to work.

The Geeks Prevail

Previously, we promoted charismatic "people persons" to management. However, in a Virtual environment, the quiet bookish types often emerge as dynamic managers.

As "Telework" becomes more pervasive, more examples become obvious. Andy Grove admits he is an introvert and is a prolific writer (auditory). Bill Gates would not be mistaken for an Extrovert and communicates better in writing than in person.

Virtual teams accomplish global objectives. All organizations need virtual teams to keep up with the responsiveness of their competitors. It's time to look to those geeky folks as prospective management candidates on-line.

If you've read all the way through this article, you are probably concerned about your management. Maybe you have some of the same problems as the companies with which I've worked. As you probably realize, the main reason I publish this website is to demonstrate my skills and, more importantly, promote our services. 1Ricci offers consulting, candidate evaluation, and training in creating a virtual village. Who/what is 1Ricci? Click here to read about 1Ricci and our method of assembling teams for your project. E-mail or call if you'd like to learn more about our services, or if you would like to schedule a session for one of your teams.

    ¹ Virtual Management- to create and lead a team to accomplish work which will interact primarily electronically, allowing long distance participants to be as involved as participants in a team located at the same physical location. [Back]

    ² Site Management- to create and manage a team to accomplish work together at one location.[Back]

    ³ There is an excellent White Paper on this topic:
    Learning : The Critical Technology, Adult Education in the Information Age
    By Wave Technologies International, Inc.