Peter Ivanov’s interview to ITCE
Peter Ivanov is senior manager, executive coach & keynote speaker and
former Bulgarian senior champion in javelin and discus.
For more than 20
years he has been working for large multinational companies based in
Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany and travelling around the world.
Initially he started managing projects with European scope and later on he
took on large multinational virtual teams and this became his passion. In
the last years, he developed his own methodology for transforming
international virtual team and making them highly successful, productive
In an interview for ITCE, he shares useful practices for virtual teams management.
What are the challenges which a Virtual team faces in comparison to a locally based team?
Number one challenge is the inability for informal face-to-face conversation -‘so called coffee machine chat”. If people have never met and established their relationship on a human level it is far less productive to work as a team being separated by continents and time zones.
Is this applicable only for international teams or also for any team based in multiple locations?
It is applicable for any team spread across multiple locations but once you have different countries and cultures involved the physical and emotional distance and separation become stronger.
You have developed a methodology which empowers teams to work more successfully. Which are its
I put a big focus on personality – the team should meet as soon as possible face-to-face and people should present their personal and professional highlights. This would nurture their relationships later. Empowerment and Interdependence – in a Virtual team where the Boss is not just around the corner, people need to have decision making freedom and own their goal/task. For sure the Boss should be “ultra” available to provide guidance and support. The goals of each member should be interdependent since this create interaction, support and collaboration and nurtures the unity of the team. Respective communication forums, agenda and knowledge management cannot be just randomly put together but well thought through and executed… Last but not least – the Leader has to instil a culture of sharing, support and recognition and the feeling of winning a big prize should be set in advance.
Could you provide a short example of how this could work?
In 2006-2007, I led a project establishing IT Shared Service in whole of Europe. We set an ambitious goal that if we finish 3 months earlier we would go all 30 People to the Canary Islands for 3 days. It was quite an emotional journey! In the end we finished 1 day before New Year’s Eve, 3 months earlier by getting Top customer feedback and saving EUR 200 000 for the client. And of course, we had a fantastic party with the team.
How do you make sure that the team members are working and achieve actual results?
As part of the strict and structured communications – I would normally go for a weekly conference call(audio/video) where we have an informal round of updates and a monthly conference where everyone present their progress in a formal way based on agreed reporting templates.
What happens when things are not going well?
Feedback is key! If something is not going well the respective person should get a “call” immediately from the leader. Different forms of 1-2-1 or group feedback sessions are key in order to ensure everyone gets corrective and constructive feedback. The worst would be to leave someone isolated – I mean worst for him and the Team as you lose one productive resource and set a precedent of not caring, which is totally counterproductive.
Do you encourage the team members meeting face-to-face or is this unnecessary?
This is extremely important. I would do it in the first week if I am appointed to lead a new virtual team and I would try to have at least one meeting per year. This is crucial for establishing and maintaining the human relationships.
What is methodology based on?
It is based entirely on my own experience – initially as a member of a virtual teams – learning from my “good” and “bad” bosses and then experimenting a lot myself what works and adds value. I think it all lies into 2 aspects: first, recognizing the people as Individuals, identifying and promoting their strengths –
that makes them feel special and second, aligning the people around the common team goal and
breaking the big goal into interdependent goals owned by each team member.
You are a father of five girls. How do you “manage” your large family and still find time for competitive sport?
My kids are still little (between 1 and 9 years) so we are all at home. Luckily there is nothing virtual in my family yet (laughs). The bigger credit for managing our family goes to my wife. As a father I praise and encourage every action of the kids that leads to independence as this grows the self-confidence of the child. With lots of praise and encouragement I am trying to guide them and help shaping their values. If I have to summarize my approach in 2 words these are encouragement and self-confidence. For sure most important is that the kids feel understood and loved.