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Training program: What, who, why, and when

In a knowledge-driven economy, leaders must find ways to draw on the skills and expertise of workers, but now colleagues may be around the world rather than down the hall or elsewhere in the same facility. Today’s technology makes it possible for leaders to source talent from multiple locations and create what are called virtual teams. Members of virtual teams rely significantly on media such as email, instant messaging, discussion boards, shared desktops, conference calls, etc. to accomplish their work.

Leaders who have ventured into virtual teams have learned that leading virtual teams effectively requires more than just a simple adjustment to “regular” face to face leadership – it requires some new knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of virtual teams. With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers from Binghamton University and other universities (Surinder Kahai, Bruce Avolio, and John Sosik) created an online training program to help leaders learn to be more effective in managing virtual teams. They are making this training program available to you to help you succeed as a leader of a virtual team and enable your team to give its best performance.

The training program consists of learning modules that are designed to be generally applicable, so that leaders of virtual teams from many fields and industries can benefit. The learning modules are brief (total time to complete all of them: about 1 hr at the most) and can be completed from anywhere and according to your unique schedule as long as you have a connection to the Internet. Most important, the learning modules are designed specifically with leaders in mind, teaching leaders how to catalyze effectiveness and productivity of the whole virtual team, from project inception through project completion.

Training program benefits

The training program is based on basic leadership principles, emphasizing the key differences between virtual teams and face to face teams. Based on feedback from past participants, you will learn what it takes to effectively lead virtual teams, with techniques that are unique to virtual team development. You will also be more aware of your leadership style and how it might impact others both virtually and face to face.

Examples of where you can apply this training

Our training can be applied to a variety of virtual team projects. Here are examples of some of the projects to which it has been applied.

  • Building bridges to IT. Colleges in a particular region of the US were successful in increasing the enrollment of women in information technology programs. However, the number of women graduating from these programs had remained stagnant indicating an ongoing problem with female student retention. A virtual team consisting of Information Technology Site Coordinators at various colleges in the region was set up to develop a prototype program to recruit and retain women in information technology programs.
  • Marketing plan for a new demographic. A division of Company A had never targeted the Spanish-speaking audience as its customers. A team of 6 marketing managers from various locations was formed to create a strategic marketing plan for this new demographic. 
  • Integrating new business unit. Company A acquired a new business located 100 miles away. Company A's management has decided to consolidate all back office functions and integrate both management staffs into a cohesive unit. A virtual team consisting of members from both business units was formed to experiment with a variety of electronic media to determine if and how their use could be optimized to realize management's objectives.
  • Enabling communication among managers after relocation. As a result of restructuring, managers at a regional bank were expected to spend more time at branches rather than at a centralized location. This created a challenge for the managers to communicate with each other. A virtual team was created to (a) experiment with various electronic media that could be used to enable communication among managers, (b) become more comfortable with them, (c) identify which have the greatest utility, and (d) learn to lead better from a distance.
  • Empowering and building trust among remote associates. A stock yard manager at an automobile dealer faced an increase in internal damages to new cars at a remote stock yard. Many of these damages were not identified before a new car was delivered to the customer and, hence, led to many customer complaints. Initial fact finding revealed that there was a lack of cohesiveness and job ambiguity among frontline associates at the remote site. The manager created a virtual team consisting of individuals at the manager's location and several remote frontline associates to empower and build trust and cohesiveness among frontline associates.
  • Virtual rollout of a new information system. A national automobile dealer planned a two year rollout of an integrated Dealership Management System to replace its current legacy system used by about 100 dealers. During the first year of rollout, the system was released to 15 centers. The rollout pace was expected to increase during the second year. Moreover, much of the rollout during the second year was expected to be carried out "virtually". A virtual team consisting of information systems, project management, and business professionals was formed to create a framework that could be used as a template for managing the roll-out remotely while ensuring maximum project coordination, communication, and control.

Cost of the training program

THE TRAINING PROGRAM IS FREE! The creation of the training program was funded by the NSF and the program is being made available at no cost to learner.

Contact information

Please contact Surinder Kahai at for any feedback about the training program or if you wish to learn more about it.

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