An Interview regarding the Impact of Self-Leadership and Shared Leadership on Virtual R&D Teams
Transcription of interview with Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi, Associate Professor - École de Management Léonard de Vinci, France, Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan, Associate Professor - Normandie Business School, France, and Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano, Dean of Research - Normandie Business School, France regarding the Impact of Self-Leadership and Shared Leadership on the Performance of Virtual R&D Teams.
Research and Development Department
Victoria Gálvez, Senior Project Manager,
Flavia Cáceres, Project Coordinator,
Pablo López, Research Coordinator,
Javier Huamán, Human Resources Generalist
(November 16th, 2022)
00:00 Flavia Cáceres: Okay. To start the interview, I'd like to introduce my
colleagues. Well, I am the Project Coordinator here in AnnexBox. Then we have
Victoria Gálvez, who is the Senior Project Manager.
00:24 Victoria Gálvez: Hello. Nice to meet you.
00:27 Flavia Cáceres: Then we have Pablo López, who is the Research and
Development Coordinator Lead.
00:32 Pablo López: Hello, thanks for being here.
00:37 Flavia Cáceres: And last but not least, Javier Huamán, who is a Research
and Development Coordinator.
00:41 Javier Huamán: Hi, nice to meet you.
00:45 Flavia Cáceres: Today also joining us is Miguel Carnero, who is the Senior
00:51 Miguel Carnero: Hi, guys. Thank you so much for taking the time for this
meeting. Nice to meet you.
00:59 Flavia Cáceres: Now, I'll briefly like to explain who we are. We are an IT
startup company and our main goal is to provide global teams with support and
solutions in order to enhance synergy and productivity among them.
01:47 Javier Huamán: Yes. I'll start recording.
02:08 Flavia Cáceres: Okay, and now I'll hand it off to Pablo to explain the purpose
of this interview.
02:21 Pablo López: Thank you, Flavia. Well, my name is Pablo and on behalf of our
team I would like to thank you for taking the time to join us here today. We really
appreciate it. Well, we would like to discuss some topics related to remote working
and global virtual teams. We've crafted some questions for you to guide our
conversation. But before we start, please be sure that your insight is of great value
to us. All the information obtained here will be studied, analyzed and used to
create further knowledge based on your experience and expertise. This will help
organizations, it will support organizations to work better remotely. So, having said
that, let's just start with the first question please. Okay, as Flavia mentioned, we
are a remote team and we are also a global team. As such, we have experienced
firsthand the differences and the challenges that working remotely usually brings.
But we would like to know about your experience. What have you identified to be
the main, or the biggest, challenges teams experience while working remotely?
03:45 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: I don't know who wants to start. Mehmet is our
expert. So, I don't know if you want to start, Mehmet, or if you want me to start.
03:51 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: I may start, but can I also ask maybe a little bit of
questions before we kick off, you know, to better understand your purpose.
You know, our particular analysis on the paper is that we studied leadership. So, if
you are asking like, you know, bigger questions for remote teams and virtual
teams, these things may not be directly related to our paper, and that will be a
separate conversation of course. So, to that extent, we may remind you that our
paper was specifically conducted to better understand the leadership qualities,
the way leadership should run in the remote work virtual team settings. So,
beyond that, of course we are aware of the challenges or the, you know, the
problems of working remotely, but these will be a separate discussion. So, I believe
that the first contact was based on our research and a particular study. So, the way
you'd like to run this session is to gain more insights about our study or to better
understand how virtual teams work from the research perspective. So, maybe we
should first clarify these expectations, right?
05:00 Pablo López: Okay. I would say that... Sorry, go Miguel.
05:05 Miguel Carnero: Thank you so much for wanting to clarify that. I guess after
we went over the paper, we know that, I guess you were exposed to some of this
information as you guys were building it. So, we just wanted to pick your brains to
see if you encountered challenges from a leader's perspective. I guess that's where
this question will come from, I guess, the lenses that you obtain after doing your
research, from leadership.
05:31 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Oh, okay. So I may say that, you know, I've been
working on the topic about 15 years, and I may say that this is kind of my expertise
and I've been studying all the literature on virtual teams so that I have a bit of
background, that I can help you. But, on the other hand, I should also
acknowledge that this would be kind of a consulting business. So, you are
providing consultancy and you are probably selling your expertise to companies
and the same should apply for us. So that, you know, we would maybe better
understand the expectations in that way as well.
06:12 Miguel Carnero: Yes. Again, as I mentioned, we just wanted to pick at your
brains to see if you are identifying any challenges that teams experience while
working remotely. We're doing this research with many researchers worldwide,
literally to just pick your brains, and see what, you know, to find common
denominators and patterns and trends. So yeah, again, if this is something that is
okay, we will just like to ask you, just have a casual conversation about it.
06:43 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: I totally understand, but, you know, just to clarify
expectations. So we are, you know, you are talking about our brains and this is kind
of a resource that we dedicated in our research. And as I said, this has been going
on for a long period of time. And since, you know, you are providing this service,
not for free, I believe, to your clients. And if you are expecting us to, to set up a
conversation that we can also better on this. All these expectations as well, just,
you know, to have all the cards so that we can...
07:15 Miguel Carnero: I think I understand where you're coming from. Okay. We
don't really have any clients per se. We just started this. We're not really charging
anyone as of right now, what we're trying to do is create tools that we can, later in
the future, support remote teams. So right now, we're not getting any revenue,
we're literally researching. Me being a researcher myself, I think this is step one, to
just do various interviews from anywhere that you can.
07:46 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Okay. All right. So, you know, because this question,
the first question, is quite a big one. There are many challenges in virtual teams
and these have been becoming more and more prevalent as I said. So, thousands
of papers are talking about very specific issues, that there are some challenges
that we know, for instance, building trust, communication, you know, all these
general things that we can talk about for hours. But to have a specific answer to
this question is quite difficult without knowing where you are coming from and
what the purpose of this meeting will be. You know, again, I can probably
provide many research papers on this or probably you are also aware of the
research, as well as white papers that exist on this very topic, that we can also
guide you to find, to locate these studies. As I said, some of them are related to
our topic to our research as well, but some of them are a bit far away, so we can
maybe just guide you through the resources on these topics, but we may not have
the direct answers to your questions. Again, just to be a bit more precise, the question
is so big that it cannot be answered with a five minute discussion or half an hour
discussion and I've seen that you have around seven questions. So, if we dedicate five minutes of each, you know, it's going to be short to capture all the answers that you're looking for, maybe.
09:18 Miguel Carnero: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, this can just be a casual
conversation where, you know, we're not really building a rocket here. We just
wanted to discuss, you know, if you came across any of these and if anything
comes to mind from your research. We just wanted to speak with you guys, you
know, just have a casual conversation about your findings.
09:39 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Yeah, sure, sure, sure. I mean, you know, trusting the
leadership is a crucial issue that we also identified in our research so that the goals
can be shared by the team members, you know, so that the team works as a unit
in cohesion and unity. So that's one of the biggest challenges that we identified in
our paper. For instance, I don't know if Sylvane or Insaf would like to add
10:06 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: No. Well, indeed we had exactly the same
questions because it's very broad. I mean, it's very complex to analyze the global
virtual teams. I put some notes for myself and it was just aligned with what
Mehmet was saying in the sense that we could talk for hours and days talking
about global virtual teams, we have another paper on technological distraction,
which might be another full factor. So, either we specifically talk about the
leadership aspect and it's fine. We discussed that in terms of the types of
leaderships or these kinds of things. The disengagement from the leaders' part
or from the other members of the team. So again, sorry if we do not provide
something specific, but it's so broad for me this first question. I was mentioning
whether it's from the leader's perspective, from the team's perspective, and if
it was other things. I put disengagement, of course, as one of the biggest challenges.
So, of course, one of the leader's roles is to keep the team engaged. So I put it
as my first challenge.
11:27 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: And maybe if I may add some, one more thing that
Sylvaine reminded me of, you know, we can analyze the challenges from different
levels: at the organizational level, at team level and at individual level. So all these
will give us different answers, of course, and that's why it makes the question so
difficult to answer.
11:48 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Yeah, I can delve and share the concern of Mehmet. I've
been asking myself the same question, whether you targeted me as a researcher,
who's been working on the virtual team, but from a specific angle, specific
perspective or whether you're targeting me as someone that is experienced in
team virtuality as a way of working. Because yes, we all work as a virtual team. So,
it wasn't that clear which perspective was expected from me. So, yes, I mean, I
agree with my colleagues that it cannot be handled in a few questions. Yes. It
depends on the level of analysis and which perspectives we can see. Otherwise we
can list a long list of problems and challenges, starting from communication to
creativity, moving through a commitment and trust and engagement. All these
are part of one of the big challenges that people face when working remotely in a
virtual team setting.
12:58 Miguel Carnero: Got it. Got it. So, I guess one thing that I can, if we can just
change the question that you see in front of you to; what are the things that come
to your mind first, when we speak about the biggest challenges. What are the first
things that come to mind, when you have done your research, the things that really
popped up the most, I guess. If we worded it that way, will that help you? Maybe
I know you just mentioned a few things such as engagement, trusting leadership and whatnot. So, does that help?
13:33 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: So if I may start again, yeah, definitely. So, shared
goals, shared leadership changes the picture so that members become more
participative so that they take initiatives and so that they can perform well. So, this
was one of the findings that we can relate to our research.
13:53 Miguel Carnero: Excellent.
13:53 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: If I may, just to say we analyzed a very specific
global virtual team, which are R&D teams, and it's not any type of teams. So, we
might have to bear that in mind.
14:09 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Yeah, the context is very specific indeed. Thanks,
Sylvaine, for reminding me of that. So this applies, for instance, you know, teams
that are met for a project basis, for instance. So the team longevity is also a factor, I
would say, if the team is meeting only for one purpose, that is, you know, related to
one single project, one shot game, or if it's like on a continuous corporate team
that is essentially, organized work on an ongoing basis. So these are different
things, you know, we need to distinguish them.
14:45 Pablo López: Okay, great. So, following what Miguel just mentioned, let's
move forward. Just regarding those specific examples that you just mentioned,
those specific challenges and problems, what is the first thing that comes to your
mind when talking about solutions to those challenges? What can global virtual
teams do to overcome that.
15:05 Miguel Carnero: Yeah, and just to add this really, we purposely kept these
questions very vague, to just see what the first things that come to your mind,
what are those things that come up. So, they are purposely vague. So the first
things that come to mind, the things that were most memorable, those are, we
just want to explore them, that's all. I do actually have to run, but Pablo will
continue the meeting. It was a pleasure meeting you guys. Thank you so much for
15:34 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Thanks Miguel. Thanks, bye.
15:36 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Thank you. For me again. I would be very broad in
my answers, but there are some technical tools or solutions. Others are
organizational solutions, others are human solutions. And if we go back again to
the specific article, the solution is that it's not a straight answer. Whether we have
to be traditional leaders or more like using shared leadership, the approach. So, if
we stick to the article, the thing is that it always depends on the type of team you
have to deal with. And the solution is a mixture of the two types of leadership, but
again, I'm staying just to the scope of the article. I don't know if this is the type of
answer that was expected, but if I stick to the article, that's the answer.
16:33 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Yes. Our article identified more human resource
solutions, which means you need to know the type of leadership the team might
need to implement. And also you need to understand the profile of each member
of the team. So, it's a more individual and team-based approach from human
resource management, not from technology commandments. So yes, we don't
have a technological solution that will greatly improve the performance of virtual
teams. I was working with a more related or oriented HR perspective.
17:10 Pablo López: Yes. And I think that's exactly what we are aiming for. We're also
very aware that we are not looking for tools that will provide a solution, but
regarding human resources. So that was our question. Just some things that may
come first to mind regarding those solutions for those challenges.
17:30 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: So for instance, it is not in our paper, but because
of COVID many people did work on that: trust, creating trust and confidence. But
then again, it has been biased with the pandemic. So, the solution that was very
often found in different papers to empower the team members. But again, if I go
back to the scope of the paper, which has been conducted prior to the pandemic,
one main aspect is, I'm not so sure that what was mentioned in the paper, but it
was mainly done in two countries. So we saw that the solutions also not only
depend on the organizational, human, technical, inter-organization or
intra-organizational, intra-departmental or inter-departmental, but the cultural
context. Because we had the collectivist society and the individualistic society that
we analyzed, the solutions of shared and self leadership were also solutions
depending on the type of macro environment we were facing.
18:54 Pablo López: Okay, great. I think we can move on to the next question,
which is regarding culture. Well, it doesn't matter if you're working in a
conventional office or in a remote environment, culture will always be important.
And I don't know, I wanted to ask you all, if you found something regarding culture
and that specific paper you're talking about.
19:25 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Go ahead. Mehmet
19:26 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: I think Sylvaine already mentioned about the, you
know, again, different cultures and when you, when you have all these different
cultures all together it's a bit of a challenge, of course. But some may argue that,
you know, I know from some other papers that some may argue that initial
face-to-face contact is a good practice to break the chains and start kind of an
informal conversation within a team so that the team can work better later on.
This is like, this is used to enhance the team's culture, that I'm aware of. Basically
that, I mean, I don't have any other ideas. I don't know if Sylvaine or Insaf would
like to add something. But this is crucial, initial face-to-face contact so that trust
can be built within the team environment.
20:14 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: I mean, yeah. Something, again, regarding culture,
because here which culture are we talking about: organizational culture or
cultural differences related to the individual levels. So, for sure, when they come
from different cultural backgrounds, I'm talking about the individual level. The fact
that one may be aware of the difference, cultural differences of the other member,
and this awareness if it can be done face-to-face before going remotely is helpful.
Because yes, the remote dimension is not helping when we don't know at all
about the person and you start full remotely from scratch. So, here we're talking
more mainly about cultural differences at the individual level. Not the
21:06 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: But if I can add one more thing, and this still is
the scope of the paper talking about the team culture. Again, we talked about
R&D teams and we had some data on the background of the people, whether
they had more engineering background or business background and their
experience of working as a global virtual team. And this had an effect on the type
of leadership that they were using. So, the more experience they had, the more
they were into shared leadership, the more they faced problems and the more
they had trust, the more it was about shared leadership. So, the team's culture was
also depending on the background of the leader and his or her experience
working remotely with the global virtual team.
22:15 Pablo López: Just to clarify something. I believe you mentioned face-to-face
interactions, what you mean by that is real life interactions, right? Not face-to-face
through the screen, right?
22:33 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Yeah, in real life.
22:36 Pablo López: Got it. Okay, great, that's what I wanted to clarify. Okay, let's
talk about something else. The next question is regarding motivation and
engagement. In that case, people struggle a lot with motivation even in an office
environment. So, what can a remote worker do to keep motivated? Is it his
responsibility, her responsibility? Is it the company's responsibility? What are your
thoughts on that?
23:10 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: It's a difficult one. I think we didn't capture this one in
our research, right? So this wasn't part of our research. But it depends. I mean, the
answer to this one surely depends on the type of work, depends on the type of
team, depends on many things that we can, we have to talk about the entire
motivation, motivational theories, in detail to better understand. I mean, I don't
think that we can give an answer to this one the way you like. So because some
teams, you know, if it relates to task interdependencies, okay. So, if the team
requires a lot of interdependencies, a lot of interactions collectively, then you may
want to, you know, that, then other things play a role in it. If the team is composed
of members whose goals are kind of unique and individual, then other things play
a role. So again, this is a very difficult question to answer. There is no one remote
team setting and all these interdependencies change the picture, change the
answer. So again, this is a very difficult question.
24:23 Pablo López: So, in that case, let's start to narrow it down to a specific
context. Let's talk about what you just mentioned there: that same teams have the
same goals and the same motivation. What would be your thoughts on that then.
24:43 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Again, it depends on the type of a team. So, imagine
the situation during the pandemic. So everyone's working remotely. Some people
have to interact more collectively within a team environment, and some of them
have to connect with others outside of a team environment. So, the ways how
managers would keep their employees motivated depends on, again,
the nature of work and the structure for the team members. So, maybe in some
cases, if the goal is quantifiable, if it's like, not service or knowledge base oriented,
again, you can increase the pay and you can motivate your employees. If it's not
the case, if it's like, you know, more like the service industry, then you may want to
give additional incentives, autonomy, flexibility that help members. Or if the goal
within the team is to, you know, to have some collective goals, you can enhance
the team culture so that people enjoy working collectively so that they are
motivated for personal reasons. So again, the answers depend on many other
factors, but I think I covered most of the basics.
26:00 Pablo López: Okay. Excellent. Yeah, that's exactly what we need, the basics.
We are not looking for, as Miguel mentioned, we're not looking for something very,
very specific. Just the first thing that you can think of, the very basics. So, let's talk
about another thing. Now, there are some skills that people mentioned that are
crucial or that make working remotely a much better experience. Maybe you have
identified any type of skills in your research in that specific paper regarding R&D
teams that make an R&D team working better remotely.
26:36 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: This wasn't our research at all. So we didn't tackle
these at all. I don't know if Insaf or Sylvaine can add something.
26:45 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Yeah, yeah, we can build somehow on one of our
findings is the propensity to trust. Yes, this is a soft skill. I mean, if you are a person
that cannot trust another person it will be very difficult to work remotely in a
virtual team setting, in an efficient way. So this is, maybe, related to transparency,
often individual soft skill that needs to be identified and considered.
Communication is another very important soft skill because it's not only the way
we communicate among each other. It is also being ready to say things when we
need to say them remotely. So, this is not easy and not anybody has this ability to
pick up the team on a channel and discuss in a straightforward way or in a
simple way, or communicate in a simple way with his or her colleagues. And this is
also another capability that people might need to have in order to make a virtual
team more efficient.
28:02 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: And for me when I read the question, I was
wondering whether, again, it's based on our paper or not, if it's not based on our
paper, we can talk about endless skills and competencies, but maybe the core of
our paper is one skill, to be a leader. If we talk about your position in the global
virtual teams. So leadership is, I don't know if it's a skill or not, but it has been
identified as one and any type of leadership but somehow the leadership is one
main factor to drive teams, global virtual teams. Even though it exists outside of
remote work, to have someone leading teams is crucial.
29:03 Pablo López: Okay. Great. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.
Let's move to another one, which is productivity. Regarding productivity, of course,
it's always important when working remotely. It's also something that can be our
responsibility or the company's responsibility. There's another difference in this
topic regarding what is productivity, for example. But we would like to know your
thoughts about that. Productivity regarding remote working, of course, in that
29:39 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: For me, I would just mention one thing, which is
another work that we conducted on the techno distraction. This remote work has
both positive and negative side effects and again, there is no linear or a clear
answer. First of all, it depends on what the company is searching for. So, we can be
thinking that we are multitasking because we work remotely, but it can have
some negative effects because we are so distracted, but on the other side
somehow the productivity would increase because we interact with diverse
people and then productivity or engagement would be an indirect effect. So it's
again very, very complicated to answer that question.
30:46 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Yes, in our work we focus on performance in terms of
setting and reaching the goals, the team's goals, for instance, a project. So, it's not
only in terms of productivity, which means what are you going to do on your day
of working. It's about if you work together as a team, remotely, how you can reach
project performance or fulfill the goals.
31:55 Pablo López: Okay. No, that's okay. We were looking for your thoughts
regarding your opinion, not what we expect to see. So that's exactly right. Our next
question, yes, is more regarding your research. So, we would like to know what
your suggestions are for people who wish to continue your research on the impact
of shared leadership on virtual R&D teams.
32:01 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: I think creating meaningful goals for the team
increases commitment and that also increases trust in leadership. This is crucial.
So, maybe it also goes back to productivity so that people can accept goals so that
they can commit. They can trust leaders so that they can produce, so the end
results will be better for the output of teams, and the effectiveness of outcomes
for the entire team. So this is basically directly to the point of our research and it's
easier to answer, to be honest.
32:35 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Actually one continuation of this research mentioned
earlier is that we really focused on a very specific type of team, a knowledge
intensive one: R&D. So yes, of course we need to really investigate further our
findings, maybe on different types of teams, because all the teams are not the
same and we've said it in our paper. One size fits all cannot be something that we
can imagine when we talk about managing virtual teams. So yeah, what type of
virtual teams? Long term, short term, project base or not, R&D and other types of
teams because remote work is not only for knowledge intensive in an R&D type.
So, these are additional considerations to think about that might, of course, put
into perspective the findings into different perspectives.
33:42 Pablo López: Okay. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that. That would
be all the questions that we have for you today. It was really nice to meet you.
Again, thank you for taking the time to join us, to have this little chat with you.
Have a nice rest of the day.
34:05 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: I have just one question. So, just to understand,
are you going to get back to us with the transcription and the way you're going to
34:10 Pablo López: Yes, of course we will need your permission for everything. So
we won't be doing anything without your permission. You will get an email from
34:18 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Okay, but just to make sure. So basically you are
interviewing many people. You try to see what are the commonalities in the
answers. Would there be a report that we could get, or what is the final output?
Let's put it like that.
34:35 Pablo López: You can see a couple of examples on our website. I can share
the link here. We have a couple of interviews there with some other researchers.
34:44 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Okay. All right. Thank you so much.
34:49 Pablo López: We have a couple of interviews with different researchers
regarding this same topic.
34:59 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Perfect. Thank you so much.
35:02 Ph.D. Mehmet Orhan: Thanks a lot.
35:03 Pablo López: Thank you. Thank you.
35:04 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: Thank you. Bye-bye.
35:07 Victoria Gálvez: Have a good day.
35:08 Ph.D. Sylvaine Castellano: You too.
35:09 Ph.D. Insaf Khelladi: Bye-bye.
—End of Interview—