Virtual Teams

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Losing my mind on a deserted island: My challenges of working virtually

No, I don’t think I am really losing my mind, but some days I feel like it.  As Head of Sales for Target Training I work virtually each day.  This means that I am working at clients’ offices, on a train or at home in my office.  I am constantly emailing, messaging, phoning and videoconferencing with my colleagues.  There are weeks where I don’t see any of my colleagues in person. I love the flexibility and autonomy of working virtually.  There are a lot of advantages and it fits my lifestyle.  This way of working is becoming the norm for many professionals and with it come challenges.  The key is to make sure you address the challenges before they start to affect your, and your team’s productivity.

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I was in a client meeting a few weeks back discussing a virtual teams training project with a department leader.  We were looking into his team’s struggles in an effort to customize our training approach.  During our talk, he used the phrase ‘…with everyone working on their own little deserted island..’  when he was discussing his virtual team spread over 5 countries.  It struck me as a great analogy and got me thinking about my team.

So, I took a few minutes and wrote down the biggest challenges I personally face when working virtually.  I recommend doing the same as the exercise helped me raise awareness of what is happening and what I can do to improve things.  I had quite a long list after 10 minutes, but here are the three main struggles I thought I’d share:

1. Trust

Trusting the people that you work with is essential.  Without trust; conflict, misunderstanding and communication breakdowns occur.  In my opinion, trust is something that comes from two people investing in their working relationship.  This can be purely professional or a mix of personal and professional.  Trust can mean different things to different people, but I think most people would agree that it is easier to build when you see someone face to face on a regular basis.  You don’t always have that luxury when working in dispersed teams.  Building trust takes more effort and work.  What can you do to build trust in your virtual teams?

2. Email etiquette

Love them or hate them, emails aren’t going anywhere no matter what you might have heard or read. Emails can be a great way to quickly distribute information all over the world to a number of people.  They can also easily offend, frustrate and demotivate colleagues due to the smallest word, phrase or omission of something.  When you don’t have the ability to see someone face to face when communicating, you need to make sure your message and tone reflect what you are trying to say.  Even then, the reader may interpret things differently based what is happening on their ‘deserted island’ that particular day.  What should you do?  Use the phone when in doubt and establish some email rules for your virtual teams. 

3. Unnecessary virtual meetings/calls

There are different opinions out there on whether to have weekly catch up meetings scheduled or not, regardless of urgent discussion points. In my opinion, the fewer the calls the better.  My schedule changes quickly and needs to flexible to accommodate client demands.  So, when I see a weekly call on my calendar I look at it as a barrier to productivity, unless it is about something to move a project forward.  What can your team do instead of the weekly teleconferences?

 

As a kid, I used to fantasize about being on my own deserted island and doing what I wanted, the way I wanted, every day. That is my current reality, minus the beach. Working virtually is reality for most us and taking a few steps to improve our communication and relationships goes a long way. Give a few of the tips included in the links above a try and see how it goes!

 

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After the meeting ends – more practical ideas from great chair persons and facilitators we’ve worked with

In last week’s post What to do before the meeting begins – 4 added-value ideas from great chair persons and facilitators we’ve worked with we shared 4 great techniques we’ve picked up from experienced chairpersons and facilitators during meeting facilitation seminars. This post keeps sharing the sharing. As trainers, we get to listen to and learn from our clients – and then you get to benefit from not only our knowledge and experience, but their’ s too!  So here are 5 easy-to-implement ideas to make you an even better chair or facilitator AND make your meetings that much more effective.

Making the time to debrief the process

Taking the time after the meeting to talk about how the meeting went means you can continually improve not just your skills, but the effectiveness and efficiency of your meetings too. Debriefing is all about identifying behaviours to maintain and things to do differently during the following meetings – and top performing teams take the time to reflect.  You could integrate it into your agenda  or agree upon reflection intervals.  My own experience is that immediacy  is better.  When asked to think about the last e.g. 6 meetings, people too often tend to either focus on the last 1 or 2 events, or speak in broad and vague generalizations that are more difficult to act upon.

Sending out minutes – each time, every time, always, no excuses, better late than never

Whether they be formal or informal, an executive summary or agenda-based, action-oriented minutes or verbatim [http://www.targettraining.eu/effective-note-and-minute-taking]  it’s a good idea to write them and send them out!  Great chair persons understand and commit to always having minutes.  They don’t approach them with a “we have proof” mentality – but rather with a “building” and “commitment” mentality. And they also give people an opportunity to review and add to the minutes.  But they have them.

Planning in “I should have said” time

People are wonderfully different – and this means that not everyone is going to contribute equally in your meetings.  It could simply be shyness, or perhaps an issue of interpersonal dynamics or politics.  More often than not it could be that an idea or opinion wasn’t fully formed and the person chose to think it through before speaking (especially if they have what the MBTI refers to as an “Introvert” preference). It’s too easy (and destructive) to take a “If you don’t say it in the meeting you lost your chance”. Plan time after the meeting is over so participants who need time to reflect can have a chance to share their insights. This also helps to build trust.

Taking the time for tête-à-têtes

Connected to the above, planning in time after the meeting for a tête-à-tête (literally a head to head discussion) also gives you an opportunity to

  • make apologies (or gives somebody an opportunity to make them)
  • reflect on behaviours
  • ask for a recommitment to ground rules
  • clarify confusion
  • resolve conflicts
  • ask for and receive feedback,
  • check resources
  • gauge true level of commitment to tasks

… plus a hundred other things which are best done on a one-to-one basis.  It’s not politicking – it’s about building authentic relationships.

Planning in check-ins to review commitments and accountability

If people have had the chance to share their opinions and ideas and robustly discuss options in your meting then you can expect real commitment to the agreed action.  And if people have committed then you can hold them accountable. Great chair persons explicitly review the commitments at the end of the meeting AND they follow up later on.  When they follow up they have an “inquisitive” and “supportive” approach. They understand that things may have changed since the meeting, that priorities may have shifted and that resources may have been over-estimated or diverted.  But they follow up.

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Plenty more meetings where that came from… And for even more information on how to make your meetings and your performance during meetings more successful, please contact us. We love to talk!


 

Before the meeting begins – 4 added-value ideas from great chair persons and facilitators we’ve worked with

One of the best things about being a trainer is that you get to meet a lot of people from diverse backgrounds.  As trainers we get to listen to and learn from our clients – and we then get to share ideas, experiences and best practices with other clients. Below are some of the great ideas that top chairpersons and facilitators have identified over the last years during meeting facilitation seminars.


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Do you know who needs to be in the meeting and what they’ll be bringing to the table?

Before the meeting starts make a list of the decision makers, subject matter experts and opinion leaders. Then take a few minutes to isolate and identify their interests in the outcome of the meeting. Why? By doing this you’ll…

  • Know who to address about which topic when. This is especially useful if you have meeting participants who are quieter or introspective.
  • Know who to ask specific technical questions.
  • Be better able to focus the flow of information and discussion on the decision makers’ interests

Do you invest time before the meeting to talk with the participants?

This idea is too often quickly mislabelled as “politics”, but all of the truly impressive chairpersons I’ve been lucky enough to work with have stood by the idea. Great chairpersons and facilitators make the time to talk with individuals who will participate in the meeting about the meeting before the meeting begins. They do this to uncover interests, hear concerns and objections, and win support. They are then better able to connect interests, help others save face and steer discussions down constructive avenues.

I specifically remember a young project manager passionately convincing her fellow IT engineers of the merits of this behaviour and that “talking about the meeting before the meeting makes the meeting work -and that’s why we always finish our meetings earlier than planned!

Do you build your own ground rules – and review them at the start of every meeting?

Many organizations have established “meeting ground rules”. These may be unspoken, hidden away on the Intranet or printed on colourful posters and put in the meeting rooms. The advice is often solid and sensible.

But all the best chairpersons I’ve worked with have consistently supported the idea that ground rules work best when the team itself decides on their own ground rules and define acceptable meeting behaviour (for example phones on silent, poll opinions, always have an agenda, etc…).  This is especially important when working in virtual teams. When challenged by their peers that this was a waste of time answers included …

  • “The team takes the time to focus on the process and not the results. And my experience is that it’s the process that causes the frustrations 9 out of 10 times”
  • “Because everyone and every team  is different and the company rules can’t know this”
  •  “If they are our rules, and we made them, then everybody shares the responsibility for making our meetings work well”
  • “It means I don’t need to be the bad guy – because we all agreed and committed to the process up front”

Top chair persons and facilitators also tend to review them very quickly at the start of every meeting. One extroverted investment fund manager I worked with sang them and, to keep things fresh, changed the tune at least every quarter. You won’t be surprised to hear that his peers had mixed reactions to this idea (“It is not a serious idea Fabio, we are a bank!”) – but apparently his team loved it, and meeting attendance was high.

Are you building trust through building relationships and enabling “rough discussions”?

Great chairpersons and facilitators take the time before the meeting to get to know team members personally – and understand the dynamics between the participants.  This helps the chairperson;

  • understand people’ motivations and priorities (“what do they really care about?”)
  • adapt the dynamics and approach to respect he different personalities (e.g. not everybody wants to brainstorm as a group
  • adapt their own communication style e.g find the best metaphors and stories to illustrate key points,

But more importantly, as one German manager said “Rough discussions are important so we don’t keep having the same discussions again and again”.  This ties in with Patrick Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a team idea that great chairpersons believe the more they know about the participants, the better they can facilitate open discussions. They’ll know when to push and when to stop, when to mine conflict in the meeting (force buried disagreements to light in order to work through them) and when to deal with issues in smaller groups. Building trust is a long-term investment, but as many meetings are chaired by the teams manager anyway it is an investment that pays off.

 

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Establishing effective email etiquette in your virtual teams

Email is still one of the most common communication channels within virtual teams – and it can cause friction.  Proactively tackling potential problems is key to successfully launching a virtual team – so during our face-to-face and online seminars with virtual team leaders we discuss expectations.  Naturally communication comes into this and time spent constructing a communication plan is always time well spent. As Jochen, a German project manager shared “It sounds so obvious we didn’t think about doing it – and now that we have I can already tell that we solved some real obstacles”.

Building a communication plan when you kick off your virtual team

A communication plan outlines which communication tools you’ll use and how you’ll use them.  For example “we’ll use Webex for our brainstorming and problem solving, we’ll use Hipster for chatting and sharing links, and we’ll use email for …”

Building the plan involves discussing approaches and expectations – and by talking through these expectations you can uncover and deal with different attitudes.  An example we often run into when working with multicultural virtual teams is whereas one team member may expect people to write back a polite “thank you for the mail” another may find this a waste of time – and even annoying!  And because email is still so pervasive we’ve seen that the majority of frustrations come from how people use (or don’t use) email. To get you started with your discussions, we’re sharing below a list of email commitments one of our clients agreed to (with their permission of course).

Email commitments from a software development team working virtually across 3 countries

  1. We’ll check our email at least every 3 hours.
  2. We don’t check emails when we are in meetings.
  3. We’ll use the phone and leave a message if something is truly time critical.
  4. We’ll write email subject lines that immediately explain what the email is about.
  5. We’ll use keywords like Action by XX or FYI in the titles
  6. We assume that if somebody is copied (cc) into an email they don’t need to respond.
  7. We will avoid using the “reply to all” unless everyone absolutely needs the information
  8. We’ll pick up the phone after 3 emails on one topic.
  9. We accept that emails sent from phones occasionally have typos.
  10. We expect that larger emails are well written.
  11. We don’t use CAPITALS and we don’t normally use colours unless something is critically important.
  12. We use bold to help people scan key information
  13. We always give people the benefit of the doubt if something can be understood in two ways.
  14. When we write an email in an emotional state we all agree we will save it – and come back to it the next day. And anyway a phone call is preferred by everyone.
  15. If we’re having interpersonal problems, we don’t use email – we’ll pick up the phone or use Skype for Business.
  16. We will review this list every 4th Skype meeting and remind ourselves that we all want to follow it.

The above list is strong and clear. It was built over the course of a facilitated 30 minute discussion and it works. We’re not advocating that you take it word for word  – but why not use this a as springboard for discussing your own team’s behaviours? Building common understanding up front will help your virtual team communicate smoothly and confidently.

And if you want to read more

Here’s a useful document with tips and language for effective communication across cultures.

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Powerful Communication – The Power of the Purpose Pyramid

presenting across cultures

listening skills target trainingThe purpose pyramid is one of the simplest and yet effective communication models for introducing a presentation, opening a meeting or organizing your thoughts that there is. It is so simple, in fact, that no one seems to take credit for it though you will find it in the work of many communications gurus. The four questions in the pyramid aren’t special by themselves, but together they offer a powerful way to connect what you want to do with the goals and needs of your organization, no matter what business you are in or function you perform. Why? + What? + How? + Who? = Alignment. The Purpose Pyramid makes it easy for you to structure your communication – in any situation.

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pyramid

Why?

Why is where you share or remind your team about the deeper meaning and purpose of the organization. This is the reason that energizes you and your colleagues as well as your customers. What’s your why? Your purpose is best when it brings the energy of your team together and they can all see themselves in it. It should also attract internal and external customers to your work.

A band plays music, by definition – but wouldn’t you rather see a band whose purpose is to give you high energy and a memorable musical experience?

At a more nuts and bolts level, you can also apply the why to day-to-day interactions and situations. An example could be to state the purpose (why) of a meeting on the agenda for everyone to see. If there is a question about being on track, the team can refer to the mutually agreed purpose of the team.

What?

What refers to the tasks you and your team need to get done to contribute to making your purpose a reality. At their best these tasks are things you can track and observe easily so all can know when it is accomplished. For example, to have better meetings is not a clear task. Having everyone contribute to the meeting is a clear task. The SMART principle is a great model to use, just remember they should in some way contribute to achieving your purpose.

An example could be to make task identification a two-step process. Instead of automatically identifying who should complete a task at the same time as identifying the task, outline just the tasks first. Going through the how before identifying who will help team members to know what they are committing to.

How?

How is where you turn to your method, approach or process, How will you get your tasks accomplished? For example, sticking with the “better meetings” example, if my task is to have everyone contribute to a meeting, I could tell the team members I expect them to contribute and hope for the best or I could use a polling technique in the meeting to give each attendee the space to speak uninterrupted.

If a task is complex, the “how” could be a process or procedure that helps to complete the task effectively and efficiently. If you have standard operating procedures in place, this is the time to stress their use.

An example could be to identify the resources and process necessary to complete a task before asking who will do it. Leaders get a chance to offer support to the team and may encourage team members to accept a stretch task because they know how they will be supported.

Who?

Who refers to the individual and collective commitments or expectations that match your team to the tasks at hand. In most meetings the who stage tells how well we’ve done the other stages. If team members recognize and connect with their purpose, the necessity of a task and the process and resources to get it done, it’s a lot easier to agree to do them. With the clarity you’ve built earlier, it is easier for you to ask for what you want while committing to do what is necessary to support your team. A great question at the end of a meeting is “what have we agreed to do?” to check agreements without sounding like a task master.

Browse our blog for more tips and tricks

And/or let me know of any other useful communication tools that always work for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

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The alternatives to a weekly update meeting

PRESENTATIONS

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VT posterIt’s 11:00 on Monday morning and your team, spread across the world, is about to dial in to a virtual meeting. Why? To update each other on what’s been going on over the past week, and what might happen over the next few weeks. In theory this could be really interesting, useful and beneficial, if it weren’t for the tight deadlines you have this week, and the knowledge that you’re going to be putting in a few late nights to meet them. Do you really need to spend time listening to Thierry, Namrata, and Quentin talking you through their week when you’ve got so much to do?

The reasons why weekly update meetings contribute to the success of the team’s performance

  • They keep you all in contact with each other. Emails are useful, but you don’t talk to each other. There is no real chance to build rapport and trust with your colleagues on the team.
  • They give the manager a chance to talk to and relay information to everyone at the same time.
  • Things happen in the week and everyone then knows that they have an opportunity to talk about them on this regular occasion. Unless something has to be dealt with right now, you can save it until then and not interrupt everyone during the week.
  • High performing teams help each other in difficult situations. If you don’t go to that meeting and share the fact that you are under pressure, nobody will be able to help you out. Everyone is, after all, working towards the same goals.

What makes weekly update meetings great?

There are, again, so many factors that could make these meetings great. This starts with recognizing that there are problems, and dealing with them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If everyone is well-prepared and sticks to the agenda.
  • If everyone takes turns to speak.
  • If everyone shows interest when the others are speaking and reacts to what the speaker is saying.
  • If the language used is clear so that everyone can understand.
  • If the agenda varies from time to time. These meetings do run a risk of becoming routine. If you change the contact from time to time, this can help with the interest level.
  • If everyone commits to agreed rules.
  • If people refrain from doing other tasks at the same time as the meeting.

The alternatives to having a weekly update meeting

Do you simply want to update and be updated or do you want to help improve your team’s performance? If you’re looking for alternatives to the weekly meeting, then these options might be useful.

Email

There is definitely a time and a place for emails, and they serve the purpose of conveying information. But they can be misread, and they can also be not read. There is no interaction and you have no chance to discuss responses with everyone at the same time unless you want an inbox bombardment.

A team portal or community

A lot of organizations now have their own internal social network. You can use communities for a wide range of purposes. You may also have a portal for your team. Why not use this to post updates before the meeting and then ask team members to talk specifically about one or two of the points? Alternatively they could ask questions on the portal/community that they would like help with. If everyone else has seen the issues in advance, then they have time to think, and will have something to contribute.

What is the structure of the update?

Just like with meetings, it is useful to give team members a common structure if you decide you’ll use email or an online platform for your weekly updates. Ask yourself:

  • What do you want them to share?
  • What tasks are they working on?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • How can the other members of the team help?
  • What are the next steps?

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help improve the way your (virtual) team works, take a look at http://www.targettraining.eu/soft-skills-trainings/?lang=de and our ebook http://hs.targettraining.eu/ebook/virtualteamschecklists

Tools for teams

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training providerslargeHigh-performing teams do not spring into existence simply by giving a bunch of people a common goal. Putting together a team is easy, but making them perform to the best of their abilities is something else altogether. Having a successful team is not something that will ‘fall into place’ either – no, not even if you really, really want it to… It takes time, dedication and understanding to build an effective team, and probably a few more things besides that. 

With that said, let’s look at some tools for teams…

Meet ARCI

You’ve heard of ARCI, right? There can be a slight affirmative murmur in the training room at this point, or no sound at all. Like so many other tools, ARCI can be implemented in a variety of business scenarios. ARCI can handle large scale scenarios, as well as the smallest process. By taking a structured approach like ARCI to role assignment, you can identify who’ll be doing what and what not on each team task. If done (and followed) correctly, it minimizes the risk of overlaps and confusions. Without further ado, ARCI identifies who is:

  • Accountable – this person is the “owner” of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, objective or decision is complete. This person must make sure that responsibilities are assigned in the ARCI matrix for all related activities. There is only one person accountable.
  • Responsible – these people are the “doers” of the work. They must complete the task or objective or make the decision. Several people can be jointly responsible.
  • Consulted – these are the people who need to give input before the work can be done and signed-off on. These people are “in the loop” and active participants in a task.
  • Informed – these people need updates on progress or decision, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.

Here’s an example.

ROLE AROLE BROLE CROLE D
TASK 1ARCI
TASK 2ARIC
TASK 3CIAR

ARCI is one of a mountain of tools that helps you define your team. But there are others…

What type of learner are you?

Do you colour code and highlight your way through documents, or do you write notations and questions as you read? Do you prefer graphics and visuals to reinforce learning? Or do you prefer to use tunes or rhymes as mnemonic devices to remember information? Do you learn more effectively via self-study, or via group activity?

The answers to these questions matter greatly in a training environment but they are also relevant in successful teams. Long instructional emails or manuals are difficult to digest for an auditory or visual learner. Or, consider the differences between someone who learns by trial and error and someone who learns from detailed how-to examples.

What type of team member are you?

Belbin Team Type Inventory

An interesting place to start learning more how each team member can contribute to the team, is by looking at the Belbin team type inventory. The Belbin identifies nine different team roles. Each role has strengths and weaknesses, and, keeping personal preferences in mind, tasks can be distributed according to the preferred team role rather than by company hierarchy, technical skills, position or experience.

Here’s a short overview of Belbin’s 9 team roles. For a more complete description, including the typical strengths and weaknesses of each role, see here.

Resource investigator

They provide inside knowledge on the opposition and made sure that the team’s idea will carry to the outside world.

Teamworker

Helps the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.

Co-ordinator

Needed to focus on the team’s objectives, draw out team members and delegate work appropriately

Plant

Tends to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

Monitor Evaluator

Provides a logical eye, making impartial judgements where required and weighs up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.

Specialist

Brings in-depth knowledge of a key area to the team.

Shaper

Provides the necessary drive to ensure that the team keep moving and do not lose focus or momentum.

Implementer

Needed to plan a workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible.

Completer Finisher

Most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.

Read more about Belbin here.

What is your team’s type?

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Years and years of study and research went into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I will not be able to do it justice with this short summary. (Start here, if you want to learn more about MBTI. If you are interested in creating an MBTI profile, keep in mind that the MBTI is a three step process, and should be performed by a certified MBTI practitioner.)

“If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”

C. G. Jung

The combined individual profiles of team members can be translated into a team type indicator. Here’s an example of a team with the team identity ESTJ. The first graphic explains the combined strengths of the team members – these are the behaviours that come naturally to them.

MBTIteamprofile

 

And then there’s the flipside. The same team identifies as being INFP. This graphic shows the areas this team needs to be aware of because its team members don’t naturally exhibit them.

MBTIteamprofileflipside

Whereas Belbin’s focus is on the balance of team roles and tasking, the MBTI profile is about raising awareness of each other’s preferences and understanding their preferred way of working and communicating. The emphasis is on preferred. Many factors can influence someone’s behaviour in business. It’s not as simple as placing someone in a box of type, or finding the right balance of different types in your team. There is no right balance of type. Every team can work, if you’re interested in knowing who you’re working with.

A short personal disclaimer

I’m not certified in Belbin or MBTI, but some of my colleagues are. They can tell you much, much more, if the mighty Internet doesn’t give you all the answers. I’m not an expert on any of these tools, but I have found them very useful in the various teams I have worked in.

 

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The elements of effective teams

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In order to be effective your team needs a number of key elements to be present

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xmasElements such as clarity of purpose, shared awareness of roles and constructive communication. These elements are not difficult to achieve but they do take focus and effort. Take a moment and ask yourself two simple questions – How many teams are you currently part of?  And how effective are these teams?  The first question is easy, but the second?

Working in teams is so common for many of us that we just don’t take the time to reflect on how effectively we are actually performing – and so we miss an opportunity to develop ourselves, our team and our impact on our organization’s goals. Researchers have shown over and over again, that these elements are essential for effective teams. Businesses which recognize their importance and work at maintaining them, are rewarded with teams that consistently perform and achieve their targets. Ignoring them leads to unachieved goals, wasted potential and demotivated staff.

What does an effective team look like?

Here’s a simple tool we use when running workshops with existing teams. Some of these questions are hopefully familiar, but too often we see goal-oriented teams typically neglect the softer aspects explored by questions 8-10. Select one team of which you are currently a member.  Now ask yourself the following questions, rating on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being low and 5 being high:

  1. Do we have a clearly defined purpose?
  2. Are our roles and responsibilities well-defined, understood and followed?
  3. Do we have the tools and resources we need to achieve our objectives?
  4. Do we listen to each other?
  5. Do we all actively participate in problem solving?
  6. Do we work constructively through conflict?
  7. Does our team leader approve of our work, providing relevant and specific feedback on whether we are meeting expectations?
  8. Do we work and learn together?
  9. Do we take time out to assess our progress?
  10. Would we work together on another team?

Your score

Effective teams should be expecting to score 40+.  Outstanding teams score 45+.  What did you score? And what are you going to do now? Why not check out Target Training’s seminar on building effective teams?  Click here for more information.

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Quick and Easy Recipe for ‘Tasty’ Teleconferences

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sweet16

Intercall is one of the world’s largest international conference call company. And Intercall’s own research showed that more than 60 percent of respondents admitted to doing something else while on a conference call. This “doing something else” is one of the key contributors to ineffective teleconferences.

I think it is safe to say many of us would like to improve our teleconferences at work. Many of them are unfortunately either too long, not focused enough, or generally unproductive. So what can you do? I’m a terrible cook but I like to try cooking something once in a while. One thing that makes it easier is to have a clear, easy-to-follow recipe to use. This got me thinking. Why can’t we have simple recipes for business topics such as teleconferences? I know that not all teleconferences are the same, but here is my attempt at a recipe for a good starting point for a teleconference.

Ingredients

  • 2 or more well-prepared and lively team members
  • Working phones and computers
  • An agenda
  • A clearly defined moderator
  • A clearly defined minute taker
  • Listening skills
  • Focus – as in not being part of the 60% who are doing something else during the call!
  • Participation
  • Coffee(optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix your team members, phones, and computers lightly until energized. Make sure the technology is working the way it will be needed and the team members are ready. Add coffee here if needed.
  2. Take the agenda, combine it with the moderator and use this to begin the call. Make sure the call starts on time and the moderator leads everyone through the agenda as efficiently as possible. Also, take the minute taker out of its package at this time and activate it.
  3. Pour in the participation, focus and listening skills from all during the call. This is important as it will give the necessary flavour needed to make your call productive. Bake this for 15-30 minutes (depending on the time given for the call). IMPORTANT: do not over-bake i.e. go over the agreed time, as this will cause a sour or bitter taste for all involved.
  4. Shake and clean the call by having the moderator summarize the key points, confirm the action items that need to be done and by whom, and schedule the next call.
  5. Let the call sit for a few hours to cool after baking. Then, have the minute taker send out the minutes to the participants, and those who could not be on the call to ensure long lasting flavour.
  6. Enjoy the tasty results of a productive teleconference!

By following this recipe, hopefully your calls won’t turn out as bad as my lasagne usually does.

Successful teleconferences aren’t difficult to have, but it does take a little effort by everyone to ensure consistent, productive success.

Good luck with yours and happy cooking!

Learning to listen: lessons from baseball, TED talks and an alien life form

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How well do you listen?

Sound matters. In work. In life. Sometimes we forget that. I heard a story recently that was told by a former Major League Baseball player. He talked about a manager he once played for. During practice, the manager would put players in the outfield with their backs to home plate. A batter would stand at home plate and have someone pitch the baseball to him. Baseball bats are made of wood and are roughly 30-34 inches long. The cork-filled, leather-covered ball is thrown anywhere from 80-100 miles per hour. The batter would swing the bat and hit the ball. Now here is the important part:

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Because the player in the outfield had their backs to home plate they had to train their ear to know what part of the field the ball was travelling to, based on the sound created when the baseball made contact with the bat. If you’ve ever seen a baseball game (or cricket) you know you can hear when a ball is hit solidly. But you can’t determine where it is going to travel. This manager wanted his players to hear the contact, and make a split-second decision to race to the position they believed the ball was going, without even seeing it. With practice, players knew exactly where the hit ball was going.

They had to learn to listen.

Are we “losing our listening”?

TED, the great, freely accessible online source for learning, has what I think are two of the best talks around on how to achieve excellent communication. Both are by Julian Treasure, author of an excellent book on the impact sound has on our working lives called ‘Sound Business,’ and both are well-worth watching. In one, he talks about speaking well and in the other, the one I suggest below, he talks to us about listening.

Of his five tips on how to listen better, the final one – an acronym, of course – RASA, the Sanskrit word for ‘juice’ or essence’ is exactly that when it comes to business communication: listening is important, it’s the essence of effective business communication. RASA stands for:

Receive

That is, actually pay attention to what they’re saying.

Appreciate

By making natural small noises or utterances like, “ah” or “hmm” or “okay.” You may have also heard it referred to as active listening.

Summarise

Very crucial to all sorts of business communication, from presentations to negotiations and everything in between. Here it’s critical you are authentic and summarise what you heard – NOT what you wanted to hear.

Ask

And finally, ask questions. Find out more. Learn as much as you can about a situation, a trend, a project, a risk, or an opportunity.

ALF

Learning to listen starts with recognizing all the barriers we create for ourselves. This is where ALF comes in, and no, we’re not talking about the sitcom character that chased cats. ALF means Always Listen First. Julian Treasure warns us at the beginning of his TED talk that ‘we are losing our listening.’

Don’t lose yours. Listen like a Major League player. And Always Listen First.

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Email phrases for praising (virtual team) performance

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Research shows that when we work in virtual teams managers tend to praise far less. In an earlier life, I worked as an analyst for an international corporation in Boston. A large part of my job was generating weekly reports and sending them off to various people. I never received a response, so I never knew if what I was I was doing was adding any actual value. This lack of feedback, whether positive or negative, was sometimes demoralizing.

It is vitally important to praise a job well done

Everybody likes to know that they are doing a good job and are on the right track in their tasks and projects. Working in virtual teams can feel isolating – and it’s motivating to know that your work is being noticed.

Praise does several things:

  • It improves the morale of both the team and the team member
  • It motivates people/teams and increases productivity
  • It’s an opportunity to give positive feedback
  • It builds commitment

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Email phrases for praising performance

Here are 17 phrases you could use the next time you want to praise one of your team members (or all of them) in writing:

  1. The work you did on the project was outstanding.
  2. You are an asset to both our team and our organization
  3. Your performance this past year has been exceptional.
  4. The quality of your work is routinely excellent.
  5. Your professional attitude is much appreciated.
  6. I have been very pleased with your efforts.
  7. Your extra effort and dedication have made this project a success.
  8. I must commend you for your dedication to our team.
  9. You have made a great contribution to the project.
  10. Your consistent professionalism has ensured the success of this project.
  11. You have been an invaluable addition to our team.
  12. Thank you very much for taking the initiative to find a solution to the problem.
  13. You can take pride in the work you have put into this project.
  14. The success of this project is a direct result of your efforts.
  15. Your enthusiasm and passion are exemplary.
  16. Your disciplined approach to problem solving led directly to this project’s success.
  17. You earned my respect with your inspiring performance on the project.

Mix and match and be specific with your praise

It is easy to mix and match the phrases in order to personalize how you want to praise each of your team members. For example, if you take #3 and #6, you can change it to: “I have been very pleased with your performance this year.” Or, you can use two or more and combine them into one sentence: “I have been very pleased with your efforts, you have made a great contribution to the project.”

Who doesn’t like praise?

Everyone enjoys receiving praise, don’t they? My colleague, Kate Baade, wrote in a recent post that it’s important to point out the positives as and when they happen. Don’t wait until the once a year performance appraisal interview to give praise. Kate, I fully agree.

 

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First aid tips and tricks for sickly teleconferences

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I’m going to give you a few quick and easy tips and tricks to make your teleconferences better. Why am I going to do this? You know why. Many teleconferences are horribly ineffective and waste a lot of valuable time. I have sat through hundreds of telecons, and have trained hundreds of other people who have sat through hundreds of teleconferences.

Three complaints I have heard time and time again are:





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  1. There’s a weird atmosphere on the call because there is too much silence.

  2. I can’t understand certain people when they talk.

  3. Our teleconferences are “always” a waste of time.

So, if you can give me a few minutes by reading on, I will try to give you some quick and easy ways to overcome these issues.

Silence is deadly…and uncomfortable

Silence can kill…a teleconference that is. If you are on a call, show some life and participate. Here are a few things you can try on your next call:

  • Give verbal feedback throughout the call. Simple sounds and phrases can really help the flow and atmosphere of a call. “Uh huh”, “I agree” and “Nice work Tom” are a few examples that can be used.
  • When you go through the agenda before the call, try to have at least one thing to contribute for each point. This way, you will be prepared to break the silence and look smart at the same time!
  • Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or give someone positive feedback. Not only does this help fill silence, but it can also build rapport (agreement) or generate some healthy discussion (disagreement).

What did he say?

It can be very difficult to understand some people on the telephone, and especially in teleconferences. This can be due to language issues, accents, the volume of a person’s voice, their phone habits, etc. The next time you don’t fully get something someone says on a call, try these:

  • Make sure you actually say something to them about it. Many times we don’t understand someone but don’t say anything because it is easier. Politely ask them to repeat themselves. Most of the time people don’t realize they are hard to understand.
  • Confirm understanding when you are not sure. Use phrases like “If I understand you correctly, you are saying…” and “Just to make sure I understand correctly, did you say…” This can be a more diplomatic way of telling someone they are hard to understand, and is especially helpful if you have asked them to repeat themselves a lot on a call.
  • Contact someone personally after the call. If you are having trouble understanding someone on a consistent basis, try calling them or emailing them after a call to politely bring this to their attention. You have to be careful how you do this, but many people will appreciate knowing that they should change the way they speak so people can better understand them.

These calls are a waste of my time

Most teleconferences run too looooooong. Here are a few things to do to save everyone some time:

  • Get feedback from the participants. First, assess if this is a common opinion by asking for feedback from the participants. Ask everyone what they think is causing the calls to run too long. Then, using the feedback, try to get rid of those ‘time wasters’.
  • Make some calls optional if possible. Give people a chance to opt out of certain calls. Then they can choose to use their time the way they want. Just make sure to take clear and concise minutes so that anyone who misses a call has the important information discussed.
  • If you usually have 30 minute calls each week, try doing the same thing in 20 minutes. If you usually have 60 minute calls, try doing them in 40 minutes. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish in less time if you focus on doing so. Remember, it is the moderator’s responsibility to keep things within the timeframe. With that said, some of the most successful teams I’ve worked with have had a designated “time watcher” that can help remind the moderator when time is running out.

These suggestions can turn your sickly teleconferences into the most productive time of the week!

Ok, just joking; but at least you can make them a bit better. If you are interested in more ways to make your teleconference better, download our ‘Sweet sixteen – quick and easy steps to better teleconferences’.

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Book Review: 5 great books to boost your virtual teams’ performance

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As we’ve heard from many of our participants in our virtual team seminars , the challenges of virtual teams are similar to the challenges of face-to-face teams but magnified. Additionally, new challenges arise, such as the impact of a lack of contact on the social glue that holds teams together, and matching the right technology to the right task. The sources we’ve looked at below continue to help us to focus on practical solutions to the real-world problems and opportunities virtual teams present. We hope they will help you to succeed in a virtual environment as well.

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Virtual Team Success

By Darleen Derosa & Richard Lepsinger

This research-based book is a compilation of practical approaches to virtual teaming. The book contains a number of helpful checklists and best practices that can serve as a guide for virtual team leaders and participants. The behavioral focus of Virtual Team Success will help you to get out ahead of any problems before they happen with no-nonsense advice based on real-world success. If you need to justify the investment of time, energy and resources needed to improve your virtual teams, this book will help you do so. The processes for solving common problems in virtual teams is a highlight.

Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies Tools and Techniques that Succeed

By Deborah Duarte & Nancy Snyder

The authors of Mastering Virtual Teams have applied best practices, tools and techniques from team theory and information and knowledge management to the challenges of virtual teams. They’ve organized the information in three, easy to follow areas: Understanding, Creating and Mastering Virtual Teams. Their vast practical experience as professors, consultants and business leaders inform the “how to” approach of the book. The book provides a toolkit for participants, leaders and managers of virtual teams. Practical tools, exercises, insights and real-life examples help you to master the dynamics of virtual team participation with guidelines, strategies and best practices for cross cultural and cross functional work. For example, instead of simply stating “build trust”, the authors give us three general guidelines for building trust in a virtual environment. Not surprisingly, these factors work in collocated teams as well. They’ve included a CD Rom with the third edition as an easy way to print the checklists and helpful documents from the book.

Where in the World is My Team: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace

By Terrence Brake

Where in the World is My Team: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace follows the exploits of Will Williams as he makes his way in a virtually enabled workplace and the life of a young professional in London. As a narrative that weaves the best practices of virtual organizations and teams, Where in the World is my Team succeeds in helping the reader to want to go from cover to cover and not use the book merely as a resource document. The book is far more than just an entertaining look at a digital life. The book’s very detailed appendix provides researched support for the virtual structures and tools highlighted in the story. Brake’s 6 C’s of global collaboration provide a logical framework for the needs of effective virtual teams.

Leading Virtual Teams

Harvard Business School Publishing

Leading Virtual Teams  is a quick and easy guide for those who don’t need to be convinced to do what it takes to improve their virtual teams, needing only tips on how to do it. The book covers the basics for those beginning their experiences with leading virtual teams. There are references to related Harvard Business publications, a mention of the Harvard extension course on Managing Virtual Teams, taught virtually, and a brief test as a check-on-learning.

The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games

By Mary Scannell & Michael Abrams

The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games fills a present developmental need for many virtual teams with games that encourage building rapport, solving problems and team skills. The games are designed to be played using various virtual team platforms and are cleverly arranged according to Tuckman’s stages of team development–forming, storming, norming, performing—with the additional stage, transforming. Each game is described in detail with the approximate time for completion. Keep in mind that teams with member using a non-native language may take a little longer than predicted.

 

Leading interactive virtual meetings

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What strategies can be used to make virtual meetings as effective and engaging as possible?

One of my clients recently asked me to listen in on a virtual meeting and give feedback to the chairperson of the meeting. This person wanted to make the daily meeting more interesting, interactive and motivating for the participants. Regularly scheduled meetings with topics which may or may not be completely relevant to all of the participants can lead to boredom. The temptation to multi-task and read emails, mute your microphone and tune out completely are high. Afterwards, we discussed the possibilities. Below is a summary of the ideas we came up with.

Know and use the virtual tools available to you

Do you know which tools are available to help make your meetings interactive? There are other tools you can use apart from just sharing your desktop. If you don’t know the system which your company uses very well, find out by doing some research or asking others. Or perhaps taking formal training is the most effective way to learn more about it.

Insist that participants dial in with their name or department

It is very helpful to have some way of identifying exactly who you are speaking to about a certain point. People often feel more inclined to answer or respond when they are addressed by name. Plus encouraging people is also more effective when you use their name!

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Clearly identify (and stick to) the topics for the day

If possible, identify the people who need to be involved before beginning to speak. If this isn’t possible, clearly identify the topic and ask those people involved to give you some sign that they are listening.

State expectations and rules for participation in advance

Does this mean that you want people to orally respond when spoken to? Should they raise their hands using the virtual feature? Should they do nothing? Sometimes people do nothing simply because they don’t realize that you want them to respond at a given moment. Setting expectations beforehand can make participants more willing to engage.

If participants aren’t very motivated, ask yourself if the meetings are being held too frequently

Sometimes frequency leads to apathy. Are people starting to think that it isn’t important if they come or not or if they actively participate or not? Perhaps having fewer meetings might make them pay more attention and give the event a sense of importance again.

Consider having an assistant

This person could take the notes for you, prepare information, moderate chat sessions for big groups or help motivate people to respond by using pointed questions to individuals by using the chat feature. This will leave you free to concentrate on other matters.

Which strategies do you use?

There are certainly many other ideas which can be helpful for leading online meetings.  If you would like to share, feel free to use our comments area below.

 

 

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Virtual Meeting Dos and Donts

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Ensure your virtual meetings are productive

Virtual meetings can be tricky at times. Are they more like a telephone call or a face-to-face meeting? Well, they are a combination of both and should be treated differently. Here are some quick and easy “Dos” and “Donts” for virtual meetings.

Virtual Meeting “Dos”

  • Ensure all stakeholders essential to achieving the meeting’s goals can attend—Otherwise, reschedule it
  • Consider rotating the meeting time to accommodate those participants in different time zones
  • Prepare an agenda that outlines the meeting goals
  • Ensure meeting items/priorities/times align with meeting goals
  • Cancel a regularly scheduled meeting if you feel time could be better spent elsewhere
  • Send a meeting reminder with the agenda, needed materials, and information on the technology to be used at least three days before the meeting
  • Ask team members who are not speaking to put their phones on mute
  • Ensure everyone participates
  • Eliminate distractions—Ask people to turn off all smartphones, and to avoid email and instant messaging during the meeting
  • Side bar and report to make necessary side conversations part of the official function of the meeting
  • Document decisions and next steps

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Virtual Meeting “Donts”

  • Hold a meeting if you can’t clearly answer the question “What is the purpose and expected outcome?”
  • Let meetings become “habit”
  • Attempt to cover more than five specific items per meeting
  • Allow side issues, “experts”, or native speakers to dominate the meeting
  • Hold a meeting even if any stakeholders essential to the meeting objectives cannot participate
  • Assume team members are clear about their roles and the meeting objectives
  • Continuously hold “marathon” meetings without any small-group brainstorming or breaks
  • Tackle critical topics at the start of the meeting
  • Let the meeting get off track by discussing the details of an action item that aren’t relevant to the meetings goals
  • Start late

More tips on virtual teams?

These dos and donts are only a small sample of the tips in our latest Ebook: The ultimate book of Virtual Teams checklists. Make sure you download a copy if you’re interested in maximizing your virtual team’s impact. Enjoy the read and… let us know what works for your virtual team!

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Virtual Teams: Pre-Meeting To Do’s

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What do you do before your virtual team meetings?

Preparing for any meeting is important, especially for virtual meetings via teleconference or netmeetings.  It is difficult working in virtual teams as you don’t see your other team members face-to-face very often.  So, try not to put yourself at a further disadvantage by forgetting to do a few small things before your meetings.  Here are five easy things you can do before your virtual team meetings to help make them more productive.

5 Pre-Meeting To Do’s for Virtual Teams

1.  Identify Team Members

List the decision makers, subject experts and opinion leaders before the meeting and identify their possible input and interests in the outcome of the meeting.

Consequences:

  • Knowing who to address when
  • Knowing who can answer specific technical questions
  • Focus information on decision maker’s interests

2.  Establish Ground Rules

The team decides on acceptable meeting behavior before the meeting begins and holds each other accountable to the rules; for example no interrupting, poll opinions, always have an agenda, etc…

Consequences:

  • Promoting behaviors that will improve group interaction
  • No single “enforcer” necessary
  • Accountability through reminding

3.  Publish an Agenda and Goals

Publishing an agenda should be a “must do” but it doesn’t always happen or it doesn’t happen in time for the participants to prepare. Another important feature of an agenda is a purpose statement or goal. What do you want to achieve with the meeting? What does a good meeting look like? Answering these questions will help you and your participants feel like you’ve accomplished something when the meeting is over.

Consequences:

  • Clear direction for the meeting
  • Improve preparation of participants
  • Way to keep participants focused and on topic
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s over

4.  Build Relationships

Take time before the meeting to get to know team members personally. It’s really important to build rapport and commitment to the Virtual Team.

Consequences:

  • Learning what others are interested in beyond the work of the meeting
  • More information to assist understanding
  • Help design metaphors and stories to illustrate key points
  • Increase commitment to virtual team

5.  Master the technology you will use in the meeting

Understanding your technological tools, what can go wrong and knowing how to fix it in advance of the meeting is crucial. Know what tools are available to your participants and be prepared to trouble shoot with participants. Always have a back-up plan.

Consequences:

  • Head off technical problems before they happen
  • Save time addressing technical problems during the meeting
  • Have input options for participants

You can ensure your virtual team meetings run more smoothly by taking a few minutes and doing the five things above.  What else have you done that has worked well?  Let us know in the comments area below.  Also, if you want to improve your overall participation in virtual teams, you can download our eBook of checklists and check out our seminar on Working Effectively in Virtual Teams by clicking here.

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Challenges of Working in Virtual Teams

Challenges of virtual teams

What are the challenges in your virtual team?

Each virtual team has their own unique challenges, but there are always a few that seem to be consistently present.  In this short video, Scott Levey, Director of Operations, focuses on two of the most commons challenges we see when training virtual teams.  Having awareness of these, and other issues that may arise, will help your virtual team increase its effectiveness.

 

 

Want to improve your virtual team’s performance?  Make sure to download our eBook of Virtual Team Checklists and check out our Working Effectively in Virtual Teams seminar.

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Giving Feedback Virtually

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Do you ever give feedback virtually?

Do you give your suppliers, your clients and your co-workers effective feedback – both positive and constructive (negative)? Giving good, timely, constructive and actionable feedback is something that most of us have to put a lot of effort into. Do we praise theVTchecklists right things? When we give constructive feedback, do we make positive suggestions? Do we always remember to address the issue, not the person?

Giving feedback well is not easy. But, giving feedback well in a business world that is becoming increasingly virtual can be a real challenge. When we add a few of the complexities that come from interacting virtually, we have an even harder job. Some of these challenges include timing, reading reactions, specificity and tone. When giving feedback virtually, for example via email, here are a few suggestions and tips below to help you do a better job.

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5 Tips for giving feedback virtually

1.  Make sure that the timing is appropriate – especially if your feedback is negative. Think about raising a child or a pet; you don’t tell them they did something wrong three days later!

2.  Make sure that the reader understands immediately what the email is about:

  • Use a subject line like: “Feedback on your proposal”
  • Tell them in the first sentence why you are emailing: “I’m writing to you with some feedback regarding the proposal you sent me on January 4.”
  • Tell them what feedback is included: “I have some feedback regarding the pricing and the payment process.”

3.  Break your feedback up. If you told them you had feedback about the pricing and the payment process, these should be two completely separate paragraphs. Give them headings if you wish.

4.  Try to be specific and give justification. For example:

  • “We liked your proposal. Especially the second page where you mentioned that the training would focus on our corporate values. This really fits to our company philosophy.”
  • “Unfortunately, we cannot agree to point 3 in section 2, relating to the payment options. This is not in accordance with our compliance policy.”

5.  When rejecting a suggestion, try to make a counter suggestion. For example:

  • “We cannot agree to point 3 in section 2. However, we could agree if the payment period was extended to 60 days.”
  • “I do not like the way you formatted the report. Next time, try to base it on the attached example or come and see me to discuss my expectations in more detail.”

Of course, there are many other things which can help to make giving feedback virtually more effective. Please feel free to add your extra ideas in the comments section below. Also, make sure to check out our seminar on Working Effectively in Virtual Teams to help improve your virtual team’s performance.

 

 

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Virtual Team Meetings: Creating Empathy and Rapport

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How are your Virtual Team meetings?

More and more meetings are being held virtually. Virtual team meetings are a trend that is bound to continue as it is far cheaper than getting everyone together. But it isn’t the same, is it? Unless you use webcams, you can’t pick up on any nonverbal communication going on. You can’t see people’s faces. You can’t see what they are thinking. To be honest, you don’t know what they’re actually even doing. You also, and this point bothers me the most, can’t have that cup of coffee together at the beginning where you exchange a few words often unrelated to business.

Why is the social aspect so important?

You completely miss out on the opportunity to establish any empathy or rapport with the people you are working with. Imagine for example that you are having a virtual team meeting to discuss solving a problem you have. If you don’t have any form of relationship with these people, how can you expect them to help? Isn’t it easier to request help from someone you know a little about? If you don’t know them at all, how can you choose the right way of talking to them to win them over? Of course, the need for empathy building will vary from culture to culture. Some will take an order as an order and just do it, but not that many. And what happens if you have a multi-cultural team?

What can you do to establish virtual empathy and rapport?

It is doubtful as to whether empathy can actually be taught. But there are techniques which help to develop it. Here are a few:

  • Begin the webmeeting on time, with a quick round of self introductions. It is important to hear everyone’s voice and know who is present. Remind participants that each time they speak, they should identify themselves again.
  • Log in early and encourage small talk while waiting for everyone to join in and at the beginning of the meeting itself – have that cup of coffee virtually. This will help to make a connection between people and give them a bit of character. In a remote meeting you often feel distant from each other, and this can make it difficult to interact. This feeling of distance happens, because the participants are in different places and often can’t see each other. Small talk helps to ‘bridge the distances’. Small talk also helps you to get to know each other and each other’s voices, so you know who is speaking and when. This will help communication later on in the meeting.VTchecklists

What can you talk about and what should you say?

Small talk can also give you valuable information about the other participants which could be important to the success of the meeting. What mood are they in? Are they having computer problems? Are they calling from a quiet location? Here are some topics we recommend using and some language to get you started. There are literally hundreds of things you could say, but it can be helpful to have a few prepared. You’ll see that some of these are particular to virtual meetings:

Location

  • Q: Where are you speaking from?
  • A: I’m at my desk.  How about you?

Weather

  • Q: What’s the weather like where you are? We’re clouded over!
  • A: We’ve got blue skies and sunshine.  Hope it gets to you soon!

Logging-in

  • Q: How did you find logging in?  I had a few problems.
  • A: It was fine.  What problems did you have?

Sound quality

  • Q: Can you hear me OK?
  • A: No sorry, you are a bit faint.  Can you please speak up?

Performance

  • Q: I am getting serious lag here.  How are you doing?
  • A: I am doing fine.  Maybe it is your internet connection.

Work

  • Q: How are things going in Marketing at the moment?
  • A: Oh, you know, busy as usual.  How are things in your department?

If you give lots of information in your answers, it makes it easier for the other person to ask more questions and keep the conversation going. If you just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it will stop the conversation. If you’re asking questions, remember to use open questions so that they can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”.

More on this topic can be found in our Using Collaborative Technologies Seminar. Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how to build empathy and rapport in your virtual team meetings? Let us know in the comments area below.