1.3 Book Chat- Working Effectively with Virtual Teams
It's able for you to do what we call course correcting, it's able for you to step in and help navigate any problems that arise and because you've given simple small tasks at first, it's not like the fate of your entire work rests on this at the beginning. In fact, one way to encourage people to use this, which ties into one of our other conversations about virtual meetings, is if you create a game and you do a, I'm going to read a description of a skill that somebody has and those who are listening tell me who is this. Sometimes in a virtual world communication conflicts can escalate quickly, especially maybe via email or text, because people may say things that they wouldn't say in person or they might say something differently or they might keep repeating themselves because they're not sure why they don't understand each other.
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Hi, Margaret Meloni again and thank you for being here. We’re going to spend some time discussing this book, Virtual Teams, Mastering Communication and Collaboration in the Digital Age by Terri R Kurtzberg. Now, Dr. Terri Kurtzberg is an associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey. You know, communications has just changed so much over the past few years. There’s so many ways for us to share information without ever having a human interaction. Or it feels that way, sometimes it feels very detached. I mean there’s social media and there is all kinds of ways to message somebody. And the truth is then, that means it’s really a good idea for you to ensure that your team members know that there really is somebody out there. That we’re not all computers, or floating heads, or text messages. Something that’s really important according to our author is building trust. And in fact trust in virtual teams is a strong predictor of overall success. If you have a team where members really trust one another, they are far more likely to be successful in their endeavors. And some thoughts around trust as expressed here is that trust means being able to answer yes to three questions. So these are the three questions. If we have answers yes to all of these, we have trust. Will this person make a good faith effort to hold up on any commitments made? Is this person honest? Can I feel certain that this person will not take advantage of me even if the situation presented itself? These are the three things we ask ourselves about our team members, and if we can say yes we feel like we can trust them. A key to building trust on virtual teams is to try to keep the team size smaller. It makes it easier for team members to interact with one another and to get to know one another. And then assuming the positive and assuming good behaviors this builds trust. You know how when you meet somebody for the first time in person people talk about first impressions and how important they are? Well we have the virtual equivalent of a first impression. And that’s important too. And that virtual equivalent of the first impression has to be that, first it could be a message, a text. It’s that first, let’s say virtual or electronic meeting that you have with someone. It sets the tone for the rest of your work together. This means you want to put extra thought into the first time that you reach out to somebody in the virtual world. Make your early messages positive. Positive about the work. Positive about the team. Positive about your expectations of how you’re going to work together. And this really helps to set the tone. When you’re leading the group start the group off with smaller tasks. And tasks that require them to interact with one another. And then in this way when they are successful with these smaller tasks they build trust and they began to build relationships with their virtual team members. If for some reason there are any challenges during this early, smaller interactions. It’s able for you to do what we call course correcting, it’s able for you to step in and help navigate any problems that arise and because you’ve given simple small tasks at first, it’s not like the fate of your entire work rests on this at the beginning. You can also help a team get to know one another by interviewing them at the beginning and creating and distributing a chart that shows their areas of expertise. And what you want to create, it’s more than an org chart, it’s less than a giant biography, but it shows each person with a little bit of detail. So it’s not just a list, like Internet, communications, software testing. But it shows the name of the person and a little bit of a detail and this helps people to get to know one another and then you encourage people to use this document. In fact, one way to encourage people to use this, which ties into one of our other conversations about virtual meetings, is if you create a game and you do a, I’m going to read a description of a skill that somebody has and those who are listening tell me who is this. And so it helps to get them to use it and then create a little bit of fun in your virtual meetings. Keep the same team together as long as possible. Because this allows them to deepen and strengthen their bonds and so their bonds can be established and kept. And this is true with in-person teams also and it becomes even more true with virtual teams. So the more that we can keep people together, the better. Try something like arranging team members to go through training together. A learning experience helps us bond. You can maybe do this by getting them together in person or by having them go through the same online training together. As long as the training requires them to interact. So you don’t want them to just be taking online classes together but never having to interact together. You really want them to work together in the online classes and this is really good. The thing is that when team members become more than just people who work together, when they develop these bonds and friendly feelings, they’re more likely to call each other for help. I mean, think about it. At work, if you’re in a tough situation and you’re going to reach out to someone, all other things being equal, you’re going to reach out to that person where you feel like you have a positive, friendly relationship. Because especially when you need help. It’s easier to go to people you trust and like when you need help. Now we’re going to want to understand that sometimes people are going to tend to group based on geography or time zones. And so, if you have a group of people who are all in the same time zone, it’s going to be easier for them to communicate. When possible try to cut across these time zones or geographic barriers by actually partnering people with others in different time zones. That way they’re forced to reach across the time zone and geographic barriers and build these relationships with people, you know other parts of the world etc. Keep an eye on electronic communications. Sometimes in a virtual world communication conflicts can escalate quickly, especially maybe via email or text, because people may say things that they wouldn’t say in person or they might say something differently or they might keep repeating themselves because they’re not sure why they don’t understand each other. I had an experience recently with someone, and although this wasn’t in a work situation, it was in a family situation and I was going to visit someone I hadn’t seen for a long time. And she was texting me and her texts were very terse and very short and to the point. You know, your uncle said, I should take you to dinner. And so I kind of felt like well you don’t have to take me to dinner. But when I saw her in person, it was different. It was like an of course, I’m happy to see you. And of course, I want you to go to dinner, I wanted to go to dinner with you. I just wanted you to know that your uncle also felt strongly about this. So you see how things are different, some communications can be terse. In fact, a final thought for now, because there’s so much good here for you to find in the book and everything I’m telling you is ideas that are from this book that are helping me so much already, is have some guidelines. Have some guidelines for this is how we communicate as a team and so if we’ve gone back and forth about the same topic maybe two times in a text or an email then have a rule. Okay, after two times we need to find a way to interact than a more personal level phone call, video conference, something. And so that we step away from repeating the same communications over and over again. So, those are just some thoughts, and again, there’s a lot of really helpful things here. And I truly believe we’re heading down the path of becoming more and more virtual and mastering these skills are very, very important. So thank you for listening and I hope you’ve picked up a couple of tips. Like I said, I know I certainly did from the book. And see you next time.
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