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I work in a virtual group. Both my jobs as a project manager as well as as a writer, require me to work in virtual teams. Sometimes I lead them.
Virtual Leadership by Penny Pullan was a book I was eager to read. It was easy to read and it didn’t feel difficult to follow.
The second edition, which was published in 2016, has been updated to include a new chapter on hybrid work. The updated edition also includes relevant case studies. It is amazing how fast virtual work has evolved.
I am also fortunate enough to know Penny, and I can tell that the book reads as well as Penny talks. It is knowledgeable, accessible and practical, and – if it doesn’t sound too sycophantic, – wise.
Let me now, in my usual style of book reviews, tell you more about the book and what I thought about it.

What is a Virtual Team?
What is Virtual Leadership?
Building strong virtual relationships
Management of What Matters: Culture and Language, Time Zones
Easy Retrospectives
Make it Real
Penny talks about the book.

What is a Virtual Team?
Penny believes it is important to first define virtual work before understanding what virtual teams are. She defines virtual work as:
People who are located in different locations can work together, even though at least one person may not be in the same place. Communication technology allows people to connect even if they are miles apart.
Virtual teams are any team that functions in a similar way to the real thing.
What is Virtual Leadership?
Virtual leadership was the third concept that was established very early in the book. Virtual leadership can be defined as:
It is possible to connect people from far away to achieve results together. It is based on a shared vision for the future that helps people get things done together.
Building strong virtual relationships
It’s crucial to build strong relationships with your team over distance if you want to be able to lead effectively online. This topic is covered extensively in the book. There are many tips.
Author Penny PullanI read these sections thinking “But I do all that.” But, I don’t. Although I may have used some techniques in the past, it’s easy to become lazy. It’s obvious that I am often lazy.
This book can be used to highlight bad behavior and help you recognize it. If you’re not new to virtual teams, none of these best practices are revolutionary. However, they can be used as a guideline to help you improve your game and increase effectiveness.
Management of What Matters: Culture and Language, Time Zones
Leaders should be aware of cultural, language, and time differences because they care about their team members. Virtual working is a challenge that faces more than half of the respondents to Penny’s research survey.
This topic is covered in a whole chapter of the book. Many practical tips are included, such as incorporating pauses into the agenda in order to allow non-native English speakers to reflect and absorb the point in their native language.
I found that I could read Virtual Leadership in one sitting. This meant that I was hearing some tips in a slightly different context to illustrate a slightly different point but the same tip nonetheless.
One example was to use the first five minutes of a call for social chit chat. This topic was discussed in many places, including, if I remember correctly, the discussion about the culture of time, challenges faced by virtual leaders, and how to manage a virtual meeting.
The book is meant to be a resource you can return to often, so it’s worth taking out the strategies to help you get through the challenges.