Interview with Dr. Penny Pullan


Tips on Virtual Team Management

Interview with Dr. Penny Pullan

Advisor, Mentor, Speaker, Thought Leader
Author of Virtual Leadership (Kogan Page, 2016)
United Kingdom

Interviewed by Yu Yanjuan
Journalist, Project Management Review: PMR (China)
International Correspondent, PM World Journal

Journalist’s notes

With the spread of COVID-19, lots of people worldwide have to work from home, and under this context the book Virtual Leadership quickly becomes a bestseller. Behind the popularity of the book is the confusion of project practitioners: How to overcome the challenges faced by virtual teams? How to build virtual mindset? How to motivate virtual team members? How to hold virtual meetings efficiently? How to practice virtual leadership? How to create a virtual work culture? With the questions in mind, our journalist Yu Yanjuan (English name: Spring) has the honor to interview the author of the book, Dr. Penny Pullan. In fact, it’s our 2nd interview with Penny Pullan. (Read the first interview at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/Home/article/detail/id/443.html)

Introduction to the interviewee

Penny Pullan, Keynote Speaker, Author, Mentor and Consultant, is an expert on developing leadership for virtual work and tricky projects. The majority of her work is with people in multinational organizations, who are grappling with tricky projects and programmes of change.

She has worked with programmes as wide-ranging as running virtual summits and professional groups, certification of child labour in West African countries, supporting people who make insulin globally to work virtually effectively, the global implementation of SAP, introducing project techniques in the not-for-profit sector as well as “Project Management Excellence” training.

She has co-authored A Short Guide to Risk Management with Ruth Murray-Webster and co-edited Business Analysis and Leadership with James Archer.

Her specialties include project and programme management, business analysis, business process management, business change, risk management, leadership of change, virtual leadership, implementing strategy, etc.

In 2001, Dr. Penny Pullan was scheduled to fly to the United States to attend the start-up meeting of a global project, but her business trip was delayed due to the “9•11” incident. Dr. Penny had to try to work with team members on projects remotely. Since then, Dr. Penny Pullan has initiated research on virtual team management. In 2016, she published a book on this topic titled Virtual Leadership.




Challenges in leading virtual teams

Q1.      With COVID-19 spreading worldwide, many project team members have to work from home. What are the challenges of working remotely?

Penny Pullan (Pullan):    Yes, things have changed a great deal recently! One of the advantages of working remotely has been that it allows organizations to use the best people wherever they are based geographically. Now, given the spread of COVID-19, working remotely is the safest way to work with anyone else, even if you are both based in the same city. At the same time, project team members may have to share their homes with other members of their family, which can be distracting at best and impossible at worst, and leaders need to take this into account.

Q2.      What are the major challenges in leading remote virtual teams? Any suggestions on overcoming those challenges?

Pullan:     There are lots of challenges in leading virtual teams! The one that comes out consistently as the biggest challenge for teams is engaging remote team members in meetings. Engaging people remotely is a real challenge. In team meetings, use visuals and call on people regularly throughout your virtual meetings. Agree that you’ll do this as part of your upfront “ground rules” so that everyone knows that you’ll call on them. Do fun things as a project team and use as many senses as you can!

Another big one is developing trust between team members when you don’t have time to get to know each other in person. I also find that people often find barriers in language and culture very difficult to overcome. With all of these, taking time to get to know each team member one-to-one is very helpful. When they know, like and trust you as their project manager, things will become easier. When they understand how you work, what makes you tick, what’s important for you and what’s your culture, it helps. You should aim to learn these things about each person too!



To read entire interview, click here


Editor’s note: This interview was first published in PMR, Project Management Review magazine, China.  It is republished here with the permission of PMR. The PM World Journal maintains a cooperative relationship with PMR, periodically republishing works from each other’s publications. To see the original interview with Chinese introduction, visit PMR at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/

How to cite this interview: PMR (2020). Tips on Virtual Team Management: Interview with Penny Pullan; Project Management Review; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VI, June.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/pmwj94-Jun2020-Yanjuan-Interview-with-Penny-Pullan.pdf



About the Interviewer


Yu Yanjuan

Beijing, China


Yu Yanjuan (English name: Spring), Bachelor’s Degree, graduated from the English Department of Beijing International Studies University (BISU) in China. She is now an English-language journalist and editor working for Project Management Review (PMR) Magazine and website. She has interviewed over sixty top experts in the field of project management. Before joining PMR, she once worked as a journalist and editor for other media platforms in China. She has also worked part-time as an English teacher in training centers in Beijing. Beginning in January 2020, Spring also serves as an international correspondent for the PM World Journal.

For work contact, she can be reached via email at yuyanjuan2005@163.com  or LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanjuanyu-76b280151/.

To view other works by Spring, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/yu-yanjuan/