People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 23

synchronous communication (happening at the same time).
Yet, training for VT leaders and members on these types of
technologies and other virtual processes is often lacking.

An Underlying Challenge in Virtual Teams

Many challenges VTs confront are not problems to be solved;
but rather, polarities to be managed.1 Polarities are desirable pairings consisting of values, competencies, or strategic
outcomes that appear on the surface to be contradictory while
in fact are interdependent and complimentary. The apparent
conflict between the pairs presents a challenge for VTs. For
instance, VTs need to: 1) both plan and execute activities; 2)
should be both diverse in their thinking and unified in their
actions; and 3) must focus both on short-term and long-term
goals. Overemphasizing one value, or pole, generally undermines the other.
Polarities, as defined here, show up in all facets of organizational life but are particularly acute in VTs. Polarities are
not problems that can be easily solved with compromises or
one-time solutions; rather, they require "both-and" thinking
and persist over time. A key to polarity thinking is that any
given pole may offer certain benefits, but brings with it other
disadvantages if overemphasized. Research has shown that
when people become overly committed to achieving one pole
of the pair, the harder it is for them to "see" its negatives and
the benefits associated with the opposite pole. This can create
blind spots for a VT if all members are committed to a given
pole or drive rifts between members if some are committed to one pole and others are committed to the opposite
pole. Polarity thinking is designed to overcome blind spots
or conflicts concerning preferred poles by promoting bothand thinking. This kind of thinking supplements traditional
"either-or" problem solving thinking and acting with an effort
to maximize the benefits of both poles while minimizing their
disadvantages.
We studied 140 VTs from 56 organizations, whose members
were located across 40+ countries. As polarities are everywhere, we sampled across industries, types of organizations,

and types of teams. We identified four key VT polarities (see
Table 1). In short, effective VTs successfully manage formal
(e.g., emails, meetings) and informal communication (e.g.,
IM, GTalk), task and relationship leadership behaviors, while
working both apart and together maintaining both flexible and
traditional schedules.

Communication: Formal and Informal

* The challenge. Communication is strained in virtual teams.
Members struggle to understand the context and nuances
surrounding others' inquiries and who should be included
in an exchange. Misinterpretations of silence, timeliness of
responses, members' differing interests or goals, anxiety
or uncertainty, and cultural barriers are common occurrences. Virtual collaboration tools introduce a number of
logistical challenges ranging from connectivity issues, to
bandwidth, to technical knowledge and support-related
issues.
* The polarity. An underlying polarity to this challenge is the
necessity to attend to both formal (e.g., emails, meetings)
and informal communication (e.g., IM, GTalk, texting).
* The benefits of focusing on each pole. Formal communication
is useful for sharing large amounts of important information and establishing a shared understanding of team
responsibilities and goals. Informal communication gets
team members real-time answers, deepens relationships,
and aligns individual perspectives to team goals.
* The detriments of over focusing on one pole to the neglect of its
pole partner. Strict use of formal communication can lead
to time-consuming meetings and delays while waiting for
formal responses. Whereas strict use of informal communication can lead to ambiguity about team goals and
responsibilities, confusion about required actions, and
leave some members feeling sidelined.

Leadership: Task and Relationship

* The challenge. VTs require effective leadership to help establish high-quality working relationships. The formation
of effective working relationships
often involves numerous formal (e.g.,
team-building events) and informal
TABLE 1: EXEMPLAR VIRTUAL TEAM POLARITIES
(e.g., having lunch or coffee together,
chatting by the water cooler) interacCOMMUNICATION
tions, which are costly if not impossible to duplicate in VTs. InterpersonLeft pole
Formal
Informal
Right pole
al challenges arise for a number of
reasons, including a lack of accountLEADERSHIP
ability, a lack of attendance or engagement in team-building activities,
Left pole
Task
Relationship
Right pole
and focusing on non-task issues.
* The polarity. An underlying polarity
SCHEDULE
to this challenge is the team being attentive to both task and relationship
Left pole
Flexible
Traditional
Right pole
leadership behaviors.
* The benefits of focusing on each pole.
SYNCHRONICITY
Task-oriented leadership behaviors
(e.g., establishing shared norms,
Left pole
Working Apart
Working Together
Right pole
holding the team accountable for
VOLUME 41 | ISSUE 2 | SPRING 2018

23



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2

From the Executive Editor
From the Guest Editor
Perspectives
Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
The Rise of Digital Team Building
Executive Roundtable
In First Person
Linking Theory + Practice
Insight into Action
Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Executive Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 5
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Guest Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 7
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Perspectives
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 9
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 10
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 11
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 12
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 13
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 14
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 15
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 17
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 18
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 19
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 20
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 21
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 23
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 24
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 25
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 26
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 27
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 28
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 29
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 31
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 32
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 33
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 34
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 35
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 37
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 38
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 39
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 40
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 41
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 43
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 44
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 45
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 47
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 48
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 49
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 50
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 51
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - The Rise of Digital Team Building
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 53
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 54
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 55
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Executive Roundtable
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 57
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 58
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 59
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 60
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 61
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - In First Person
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 63
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 64
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 65
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Linking Theory + Practice
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 67
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 68
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 69
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Insight into Action
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 71
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 73
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 74
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover4
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