Peter is a keynote speaker and the author of Virtual Power Teams. I first heard Peter speak about virtual teams years ago in an interview and was blown away. (You can find the recording on the resources page). In particular I was fascinated by the story of how he motivated a remote team back in 2007 and am really excited that Peter agreed to share the same story in the 2nd edition of my book.
How I created a winning spirit in a virtual team
In 2006 and 2007 I was leading a two-year project where I was responsible for transferring 20 countries in Europe from locally managed IT services to a shared global service. It was a complex project with five full-time staff in different European locations supported by five global experts from HR, finance and legal as well as a large number of part-time IT services managers. After the initial enthusiasm, I realized it was difficult for me to motivate people from a distance. Instead of being a productivity factor I had become a break factor and burn out was just around the corner. It was a wakeup call, which prompted me to use a radically different approach. I held a workshop with the team where we focused on their individual personalities, their lifelines (discussing key events from their personal and professional life) and their individual strengths. At the end we broke down the strategic project goals so that everyone had his or her own goal linked to their strengths. Within a short amount of time we had understood what makes everyone’s heart sing and we had begun to create the gravity, which holds a team together.
After a year of working on the project I convinced senior management that if we managed to transfer all 20 markets three months earlier to the global shared service unit, all thirty people involved in the project would go to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for three days. It sounds crazy, but the cost of sending everyone to Tenerife was far less than the €250,000 it would cost to have us work on the project for three more months. Management agreed and as soon as I announced it to the team the speed of delivery increased. This was a real motivational factor for the team members. The collaborative spirit also increased, as we’d only be able to go if all team members delivered in time. On the day before the deadline, the last team member delivered his work. Our customer was happy and the team was happy. We saved the company far more than what we spent in Tenerife.
What can we learn from this story? First of all you have to be generous as a manger when you set a prize. Second, you have to announce the prize in advance, as people need time to identify with it and feel how cool it would be if we all go together. With these two aspects you can create a fantastic winning spirit, deliver remarkable results, and have lots of fun.