Author Archives Michal Spiar

Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinking

action plan brainstorming complex 212286 600x242 - Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinking

action plan brainstorming complex 212286 300x200 - Get your virtual team ready for 2020 and beyond with these tips for critical thinkingNew technologies are enabling workplace innovations such as remote working, co-working spaces and teleconferencing. Organizations are likely to have an ever-smaller pool of core full-time employees for fixed functions, backed up by colleagues in other countries and external consultants and contractors for specific projects.”

–     The Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum, 2016

In 2016, the WEF gave company executives a sneak peak at what the future held in a five-year outlook, and the prominence of virtual teams was, well, prominent. And they weren’t wrong.

Odds are your organization already works virtually, at least a little. Whether it’s co-located colleagues working at just 90 feet away from one another (that’s all it takes), permanent employees working from home, consultants working halfway around the world, or even freelancers hired online, nearly everyone has experienced a virtual working environment at least once.

In its report, the WEF also listed the top 10 skills companies will value most in employees by 2020 – though not from the point of view of virtual teams. In this blog series, we’ll do just that, one skill at a time. In this entry we’re looking at skill #2: Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking in virtual teams

Thinking critically is all about stepping back to examine all aspects of a situation – particularly new challenges or obstacles. There are many resources for developing critical thinking skills, often talking about the importance of “clarifying the question.”

Clarifying the question means getting everyone on the same page, ensuring they understand the objective and how their expertise can contribute to achieving it. Otherwise, you wind up with a bunch of smart people working at cross-purposes as they focus only on their own narrow piece of the puzzle.

Unfortunately for virtual workers, hyper-focusing on your narrow piece is all too easy. Working on your own naturally increases feelings of isolation and slows the development of trust, making it harder to bring the big-picture thinking required to solve problems that impact everyone.

But with the right tools and strategies, virtual workers can clarify the question just as well as their co-located peers.

Develop critical thinking in virtual teams

Raise your hand if this is familiar: you walk away from a “successful” team meeting, only to discover later on that nobody agrees on what was discussed. This is a common enough challenge when clarifying the question, and one that can get exaggerated in virtual teams. See how Lunch & Learn training sessions can help your team.

Fortunately, by using the right communication strategies and collaboration tools, virtual teams can effectively get everybody on the same page:

Use a virtual whiteboard

Most web conferencing applications include a virtual white board for participants to jot down shared notes about the problem they are trying to solve. These notes give the facilitator and team see what people are thinking and ensure that everyone is discussing the same topic in the same way.

Managers can also invite their staff to submit ideas in advance to pre-populate the whiteboard so everyone in the meeting hits the ground running.

Use polls to challenge ideas and avoid groupthink

Playing devil’s advocate to challenge assumptions and spark new ideas is essential to critical thinking. However, remote workers often wary about being judged for breaking the flow of the conversation and will keep quiet, even if they have a valuable disagreement.

Web polls are a great workaround, automatically pausing the conversation and making it feel safer for virtual staff to share their thoughts.

Pause and summarize

Once everyone seems ready to move on from an agenda item, even after conducting a poll, it’s crucial to pause and summarize your conversation. Doing this is one final check that everyone is on the same page, helping make up for not having visual cues like facial expression and body language to guide your interpretation of what everyone is thinking and feeling.

Thinking critically about virtual teams

With the right communication strategies in place, there’s no stopping virtual teams from realizing all of the cost savings and efficiencies they promise – especially when they’re equipped to take a step back, work together, and think critically about their challenges and objectives.

Future-proof your virtual teams with lunch & learn training sessions

Learn more today!

By : Michal Spiar /October 07, 2019 /blog, Virtual Leadership /0 Comment Read More

When Working from Home Goes Wrong

Virtual team growth

About 40% of Microsoft’s 400,000 employees worldwide did not have a traditional office in 2007, the last year the company released this data. Recently, the tech giant announced that it was ending the benefit for many of those workers, aiming to transition them back to a traditional office environment.

“In many fields, such as software development and digital marketing, the nature of work is changing, which requires new ways of working,” said a statement from the company. “We are bringing small, self-directed agile teams in these fields together.”

I respectfully disagree – the nature of work is indeed changing, but very much in the opposite direction. A 2016 survey shows that more than half of corporate teams hail from multiple nations, up from just 41% in 2014 and 33% in 2012. In fact, up to 41% of corporate teams never meet in person.

So what drove Microsoft’s decision?

Failure to understand virtual work
According to the Gartner Group, 50% of virtual teams fail because they do not understand how to work virtually. Simply put, when interpersonal communication occurs mostly or entirely via electronic means, the skills and strategies we use to work productively and cohesively need to evolve. All too often, they don’t.


When companies say they dislike virtual teams because “the nature of work is changing,” to me it says they never quite cracked the code of doing so effectively in the workplace. Rather than solve the problem, they disrupt their workers’ lives and routines by embarking on expensive and complicated reorganizations.


I hope they make sure that in the new arrangement, team members sit no more than 90 feet away from one another. Any further, and they begin to exhibit the tendencies and behaviors of virtual teams anyway.

The way forward
Simply put, there is no reason – not one – why virtual teams cannot work as effectively and productively as co-located teams. Towards that end, Virtual Team Builders is pleased to launch a new resource for companies and teams that may be struggling, or even contemplating a drastic move such as Microsoft has.


Our Lightning Pro webinars are short, targeted, and laser-focused to address one commonly experienced challenge at a time. Affordable and convenient, each 45-minute webinar delivers instantly applicable skills and knowledge that your team can put into practice immediately. Current webinars are:


– Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting for Skype for Business

– Advanced Skype for Business

– SharePoint for Virtual Teams

– Jumpstart Your Online Training


Virtual teams became common for a reason – they are convenient, flexible and easy to implement, making life more enjoyable for employees and less costly for businesses. Don’t let the challenges of virtual teamwork slow you down. Overcome them and achieve the results you know you can. Sign up for our Lightning Pro webinars to get started today!

By : Michal Spiar /September 25, 2019 /blog /0 Comment Read More
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