Leading a virtual life in the Middle East

By Anne Tice

Holding a productive team meeting is tricky enough, but host that meeting virtually and the challenge escalates. In a former company, I once attended a virtual call with a dog barking all the way through the meeting, and today I have an unfortunate friend in HR,  who frequently cancels dinners on a Thursday night due to the timing of “virtual meetings” from overseas. One particular challenge is when most of the team is together in one place and you are alone in another country trying to follow what’s happening. I am sure we have all experienced the “absent colleague” who calls into the meeting late, and then we hear the clicking of the keyboard as they catch up on emails. I also heard about the sales guy in Australia who called in to a virtual senior sales meeting, rather loudly after “client drinks”. “Well, it was 8 at night,” he retorted.

Recently, I’ve had to research and facilitate workshops on how to run a virtual team, and these are some of my favourite tips:

  • Have a planned icebreaker to help the team relate to each other better. The “best job, worst job” exercise sounded fun to me.
  • Use technology fully, such as including chat services for questions, video conferencing, wikis and community groups.
  • Send and ask for material ahead of time so people can view written materials or slides, and an agenda.
  • Recognise and celebrate birthdays, HR achievements and say thanks with a slide of a “virtual cake”.
  • Be sensitive to international time zones which can isolate “remote” colleagues.
  • Try having everyone call in virtually, rather than having half the participants in one room.
  • Alignment is more challenging for virtual teams so make sure that the team is aware of other team members’ objectives.
  • Agree some virtual meeting ground rules for the large team such as “don’t multitask” and “put your phone on mute when you’re not speaking”.

So, the next time there’s a virtual call from home, make sure the dog is far away, and you include those remote colleagues.

Anne is currently a Director, Talent and Development for Arc International covering the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. She holds an MBA, a postgraduate in Human Resources and a BA (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Strathclyde. 

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