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Leading Virtual Teams That Include Israelis

Leading Virtual Teams That Include Israelis

Leading any virtual team is quite challenging; and leading one that incorporates Israelis is that much trickier.

Virtual teams exist across physical and cultural boundaries. They share a common purpose, while mainly using web-based means of communicating and collaborating, such as Slack (messages and files), Webex (online meetings and presentations), GoToMeeting (HD video conferencing), Google Hangouts (instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features) and many other cool software programs for effective virtual team interaction.

The obstacles to good communication include the nonverbal components of messages, lack of downtime for team members, multiple time zones and different languages. Moreover, trust-building is extremely challenging and quality control is difficult.

For these among other reasons, strong leadership is essential for successful virtual teams. Managers need to:

  • Know what they want to achieve from any virtual meeting
    • Define the objective
    • Draft an agenda (stick to timetable)
  • Demand commitment and set deadlines for the team
    • Create clear tasks
    • Assign responsibility to prevent the bystander effect
  • Build trust by providing an example of reliability and likeability
    • Be positive, including problem solving
    • Get personal, including one-on-one feedback

All the above are much more challenging when the virtual team is composed of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, specifically including Israelis, due to:

  1. The absence of face-to-face interaction and the virtual group format, where respectfully listening to colleagues without interrupting is very important.

Israelis’ usual communication style includes assertively cutting in, speaking loudly and using hand gestures to get the floor. When the emphasis is on politeness, many Israelis are at a disadvantage in getting their ideas across, and all the team members may feel misunderstood, offended and/or frustrated.

  1. The lack of unplanned and informal social exchanges in virtual teams, for which it is vital that meetings stick to a pre-set agenda and that the team operate within strict time frames and work plans.

Israelis are masters of informal communication, so they find themselves at a loss when meetings are highly structured and formal, as well as non-frontal. Many of their most valuable business interactions and brainstorming customarily take place next to the coffee machine or in the office hallway. In such physical settings they also have the option to engage in small talk, which is an integral part of the Israeli business culture. Furthermore, Israelis are at their most creative when they have the chance and flexibility to think outside the box and improvise.

Managing virtual teams draws on different skills than those required for co-located teams. Managers need high emotional and cultural intelligence to be able, in real-time, to adjust and solve the numerous tough situations that come up across spatial and cultural boundaries. The first key lies in understanding the prevailing cultural characteristics of the team members, as illustrated above.


For more information about OLM workshops and other services, past blogs or “Israeli Business Culture,” my bestselling book on Amazon, please browse the relevant pages on my website ( And always feel free to contact me with any question or request at

OLM Consulting Founder

Osnat Lautman is a well-known intercultural expert and the author of the Amazon bestselling book ‘Israeli Business Culture’. Osnat is passionate about cultures, connecting humans and breaking through culture barriers. She created the ISRAELI™ model of Israeli business characteristics (Informal, Straightforward, Risk-Taking, Ambitious, Entrepreneurial, Loud, Improvisational) to reveal the foundations of the Israeli innovative culture. Osnat supports many organizations and individuals to effectively connect and engage with Israelis, avoid misunderstanding and maximize the value of combining the innovative Israeli spirit into a multi culture environment.

Osnat is the founder of OLM Consulting and her customer include the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, The Jewish Agency, Verint, NYU Tel Aviv, the British Embassy, the Swedish Embassy, the Belgium Embassy, FIDF, Israel Defense Ministry delegation in New York, JCC Association, National Bank of Australia, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 888 Holdings, Corning, SkyVision, ObserveIT, MX1, Israel Export Institute, StartApp, Tel Aviv Municipality, and many others.

Osnat lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, from 2009 to 2013. During this time, she started her extensive research on the differences between Israeli and non-Israeli business cultures, including video interviews with businesspeople from numerous origins. The recorded discussions are incorporated into her lectures and workshops for demonstration purposes.

Osnat holds:
M.A in Social Science and Communications, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Certificate in Organizational Development, New York University, New York
Coach License from Co-Active Training Institute, Israel

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