All project team members, whether collocated or virtual, should be interested in ways to enhance individual competence. When a more seasoned member of the team assists another team member, the seasoned member is furthering the personal goals of the other team member while contributing to the overall objectives of the project. Therefore, individuals should be encouraged and empowered to continuously improve work processes, tools, and skills, independent of the immediate focus of that enhancement. However, by comparison, it is easier for collocated team members to provide feedback in the areas of personal strengths and weaknesses and to mentor other team members .
The project management professional has the responsibility and obligation to enhance his or her individual competence. Enhancement of competence is accomplished by increasing one's professional knowledge base and by applying that knowledge for the benefit of improving the services that are provided to the client. The prerequisites to this process are a clear awareness of one's personal strengths, weaknesses, learning style, and professional competencies (PMI, 2000b, 2002). With this clear understating of one's status, the project professional can develop personalized options for training topics, instructional methods , and learning tools.
Mentoring and coaching in the same shape and form as for traditional teams are impractical and ineffective for virtual teams. However, if the project adopted any of the variations of distance learning tools, then virtual-specific mentoring and coaching can be conducted . Although mentoring and coaching tend to be situation specific, they still improve the overall effectiveness of the individual in the development of new knowledge and skills. The virtual team manager would be well advised to prepare a mentoring and development plan in order to capitalize on the experience of the more seasoned members of the team, even if the team happens to be virtual (Haywood, 1998). This plan might include technical skills, work process skills, and communication skills with appropriate modifications for the virtual environment. The plan should outline means to evaluate whether technical skills training is available through multiple media, such as self-paced web, CD-ROM, or classroom training. This plan should also include documentation of task-oriented work processes and nontask-oriented processes. Finally, the plan should outline the availability of training in the areas of written communication, conference calls, meeting management, and time management.
For the best results, mentoring activities should be highly encouraged for, but never imposed upon, team members. This emphasis will signal the team's willingness to provide personal support and guidance, but allow the prospective recipient to make the decision regarding use of a mentor. Since the virtual team is composed of people with expertise in different technical specialties who reside in scattered locations, a catalogue of each team member's specialties will be extremely useful in identifying teammates for one-on-one consultation. Such information should be generated by the individual team members and made available in a format that is easy to access.