News - Peter Ivanov

How to lead virtual teams?

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Few people realize the challenges of leading virtual teams.

Connect people.

I think main point is that people don’t see each other and unless you as a manager provide time and format and structure for them to present themselves as individuals, they would never do this themselves and they would stay anonymous. They will not become a team but will be just a group of separate experts selected to perform a certain task.
One of the challenges, since there is no time at the coffee machine, this format needs to be re-created online. Give people an opportunity to present themselves and their strengths on a regular basis. This keeps people-to-people connection and relationship going.

Decentralize communication.

Very often managers of virtual teams are the ones who deliver communication to the team, top down: goals, corporate targets, etc. but the best way of communicating with virtual teams is to decentralize communication and empower the team instead and don’t micro-manage! Give them a clear goal: WHAT to be delivered but then set them free on the HOW, of course, within budget and time constraints. But for the rest empower the people and let them shine!

Incentivize your team.

And I think the third one is incentives. Because people don’t see themselves doesn’t mean that they cannot celebrate together. You could go for exotic trips if you could fund it but I also work a lot with NGOs which have zero budget and they do like virtual pizza and they gather everyone and they see each other on the video and they pop up the same bottle of sparkling wine at different locations! So, even without a budget, if you let them think, if you have a clear target you can still celebrate. So, this fun factor sometimes is underestimated but it could be done if you facilitate and let the people choose.

How often should Virtual Teams meet?

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What is the optimal frequency and agenda for those Team meetings?

Peter Ivanov responding to the audience question on the international meeting planners summit.

As often as possible – it’s a budgetary restriction but I would say – once a year. Try to do it once a year at least. Why? Year is a dynamic in which we live. It’s part of our lives. Our green planet turns around the sun within one year. The most corporate planning cycles and reporting financial results are based on an yearly cycles.

At least once a year aim to have a round of reviewing the delivery of the past goals and setting new goals as a Team. This is also the place to have a discussion – how do we work as a team. I would encourage you to do it face to face. If you cannot afford the travel, the current technologies allow to simulate Online many of the live meeting experiences i.e. white boards, break out virtual rooms and rich video interactions. Key for this meeting is to set the goals bottom up as a Team leveraging the strengths of each Team member.

Apart from performance review and goal setting this yearly meeting is a great opportunity for feedback – how do we work as a team. Here everyone shares with everyone – 1) what do you do well, 2) what you should stop doing and 3)what is something that you can do, but perhaps you are not yet aware, that could certainly help the teams performance. This is the format – Start, Stop, Continue doing and if done honestly and openly is quite powerful.

I think it’s critical to set the annual goals as a Team but also through open and honest feedback to significantly improve the performance of the Team year after year.

Peter Ivanov is a Virtual Teams Expert, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach. His Management System “Virtual Power Teams” has won multiple corporate awards.

Get your Virtual Team to the Next Level!


5 effective Tips to deal with “Stoppers” i.e. critical or aggressive participants in a phone conference!

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office-1516329_1280Telephone or Video conferences have become a common communication practice for virtual teams in different locations.
If you need to align your Team, make a decision or resolve a problem you usually call a phone conference.
How often do you experience a “Stopper” i.e. a participant who is critical or even aggressive to any idea suggested by the Team?
How to deal with those Stoppers effectively?
At the first place you need to start dealing with them way in advance before the conference.
You need to involve them in shaping the Team agenda i.e. the annual strategic projects of the Team. Best format for this in an interactive “face to face“ workshop.
If everyone is involved in shaping the team’s agenda and is given a chance to propose and criticize it you will have much “smoother ride” later.

Tip 1: Flow for the “Shaping Workshop” in 4 distinct stages:

1. Collect all issues and opportunities from each team member. You may use proactive questions – What lies on my heart? What says my gut feel? What can give me wings?
2. Through voting (each participant has 3 votes) collect the Top 3 hottest topics
3. Transform the 3 Hot topics into SMART goals – specific, measurable and time bound
4. Build Roadmaps laying down key deliverables and milestones for achieving the 3 goals

Essential is that everyone voluntarily chooses which Milestone or Deliverable to be responsible for based on his natural strengths. Later on when the team members work remotely that would significantly improve their motivation and commitment.

To avoid Stopper behavior is key that their abilities, talents are strengths are recognized in advance and known by everyone. In such a way the Stopper do not need to fight for attention through critic and aggressive behavior. Instead he feels recognized and invited to contribute in shaping and delivering the team’s agenda.

Tip 2: Discover the natural Strengths and talents of each team members. There are simple coaching techniques for discovering the genuine strengths. With a simple set of 5 questions your team member can identify each other strengths in pairs.
Once strengths are identified, capture them on the wall in a “Strength matrix”. In this way everyone feels special, posseting “super powers” recognized by all other team members. If you still encounter highly critical and even aggressive behavior try to find out what are the underlying needs and intentions.

Tip 3: Do not go to advocate with full power your position (being criticized by the Stopper) but ask questions – what is he/ she trying to achieve?
If you cannot get satisfactory answer on the needs, goals and intentions park the issue and schedule an immediate “One to One” conference with the “stopper”.

Tip 4: Nominate a Moderator for your Team conferences – someone who builds the Agenda in advance and manages timing. The Moderator is allowed to interrupt participants in order to deliver the agenda. I would not recommend that the Manager of the Team is a Moderator as well. I would rather advise the Manager to step in when the decision needs to be made or to resolve a conflict instead of “wasting” his authority to manage time.

Tipp 5: I would also recommend that everyone has a pre-agreed time slot to talk during a phone conference so extroverts, introverts and stoppers alike has their opportunity to lay down their progress, problems and suggestions.

In order to effectively deal with stoppers you need to recognize their strengths, involve them in advance in shaping the Team’s strategic agenda and praise them continuously for their contribution.
In such a way you improve the gravity of your team, tackle distractive behavior and set the right tone for Success!

peter-ivanov-profilbildPeter Ivanov is Virtual Teams Expert, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Are you keen to get the Performance of your remote Team to the next level?    

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The organisation of the Future

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Peter Ivanov interviewed by the Bulgarian Association for People Management

How do you imagine “the organisation of the future”?

Peter-Ivanov-portrait-1-e1444923966424I see the Organisation of the future with 3 distinguishing characteristics:

1) comprised of Empowered people with more decision making freedom and license to lead;

2) more virtual – people will be working from home or wherever they find most inspiring

3) flat hierarchy – there will be less organisational layers and more self-organisation around clear purpose and values.

People will have the opportunity to suggest projects and then based on the number of followers they gather to build the dynamic portfolio of the organisation.

That would ensue more changing leaders instead of fixed org structure. This kind of organization will be better prepared to drive innovation and also to create and respond to new “disruptive” trends

Is it very different from the current one? 

Yes, fundamentally.

What are the major differences?

Firstly – the organizational structure will be with less hierarchical levels and more fluid – less static roles and more project driven ones. I expect lean senior team and pool of experts that will self organize themselves around projects.

The key motivator will not be career as people will be switching anyway but Development. Key question will be – what can you learn and experience in the organisation and what difference are you making for a better the world.

What would you start doing today in order to prepare for it?

The20FutureA few things managers can start doing gradually now:

-Allow people to work from home, abolish the fixed working time and measure & reward your people on results not efforts or time spend in the office.

-Allow them to work half a day a week on projects they choose, they research and has the ability to lead providing they get sufficient followers within the organisation.

This will foster creativity and empowerment and will improve your team motivation and effectiveness.

How would your “ideal” organization look like? – share your vision

The ideal organization will be built by experts spread around the world and united by a common vision and mission for a better world! There will be key hubs with more people and infrastructure gathered there, complimented by some “free riders” working from their favorite locations.

It will be flexible – new people will be joining smoothly, being embraced and supported by the core team and leaving once their role and development has been completed.

The people will be strongly empowered to lead projects and strategic initiatives and pursue their ideas and passion in life.

Reward will be less money and career driven but centered on purpose and development. The Joy & Fun of working together and accomplishing a mission will be key magnet to retain people.

The people will still be meeting face to face but rather at exotic locations to plan their work and to celebrate success!

woman working on a laptop at a perfect beach in the caribbean

Peter Ivanov is a Virtual Teams Expert, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach. His Management System “Virtual Power Teams” has won multiple corporate Awards.

Virtual Power Teams selected its First Virtual Trainees

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Virtual Power Teams participated in the second edition of the “HR in Action” competition, organized by the Bulgarian association for People Management.  A total of 13 IT, outsourcing, trade and consulting companies participated in the competition providing real life challenges. 45 teams consisting of 2 students each decided to take the challenge and resolve the HR problems, given by the companies.

Virtual Power Teas was the only company specialising in virtual teams management. Steliana Petkova and Teodora Petkova from Sofia University presented the most innovative solution of the problem given by us – a management of IT virtual team in organisational transformation. The two ladies will undertake a 3-month virtual trainee program in Virtual Power Teams.

Busy November with Two Workshops and a Keynote Speech in Bulgaria

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For a second year in row Peter Ivanov was invited to participate in the biggest international PM conference in Bulgaria – PM Day 2015. On November 20th over 100 experts and managers attended the workshop “How to Deliver Projects Quicker, Reduce Your Cost and Develop Your Organization for the Future” and felt the burst of Virtual Power Teams energy.
The company also made it’s debut in Plovdiv – one of the top outsourcing destinations in Europe. The workshop was organized in a partnership with BizLabs – one of the innovative co-working spaces in Bulgaria. The Keynote Speaker was honoured to couch young entrepreneurs in Plovdiv and received excellent feedback from the professionals in IT & Outsourcing companies.

At later presentation, he shared his experience with over 120 financial expert at the leading banking institution Societe Generale Bank.

1 Keynote and 4 Team workshops within a week

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The week started with the Keynote “Virtual Power Teams” in the IT Step Academy, Bulgaria. IT and HR Managers as well as young IT entrepreneurs got fresh insight on leading virtual teams and took part in active discussions.

This week was followed by 3 open workshops and one internal Team Coaching. Over 30 global and local companies actively participated in the various exercises and rated the benefits of the training highly. Some of them plan to run internal corporate Team workshops and executive coachings with Peter Ivanov.

Teach for Bulgaria – one of the leading NGO’s in the education sector conducted the “Virtual Power Teams” workshop as part of their talent and team development program. The Project coordinator’s team was happy to see how easy it is to set optimal goals while using simple but effective techniques.

Destination Success

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Peter Ivanov campushunter_CeBIT_2015_-3268
Peter Ivanov was invited to share his success story as a part of an online media project aimed to boost the economy of his hometown Gabrovo. The project, “Destination Success”, has been run by a local NGO and supported by the Municipality of Gavrovo. Only 20 businessmen were invited to participate in the promotional campaign project.

“Teach for Bulgaria” goes for Virtual Power Teams

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“Teach for Bulgaria” – one of the leading NGO’s in the education conducted the “Virtual Power Teams” workshop as part of their talent and team development program. The Project coordinator’s team were happy to see how easy it is to set optimal goals while using simple but effective techniques.
“Teach For All” is a global network of independent social enterprises working to expand educational opportunity in their countries by enlisting talented future leaders to the effort. All the member organisations are unified by a common mission – to improve the education of students in classrooms now while simultaneously working to build the long-term movement for educational equity in their country. “Teach For All” is based on the concept of global-local practice – meaning that members have grassroots organisations in their country and belong to a global network of organisations.
As the network of coordinators was recently expanded, the leaders needed an urged action plan on how to set their optimal goals and keep the group spirit in a dispersed team. Thanks to the unique bottom-up system, the workshop ended up with three strategic roadmaps and high level of motivation!

As a team, we were happy to take small part of their Mission and wish them good luck!