Companies of all sizes in the energy sector are taking advantage of the cost and performance advantages of working in virtual teams across the globe, at least some of the time. In Fire up your performance with virtual teams and More fuel for virtual teams I suggested 6 ways to lead virtual teams more effectively:
- Understand the building blocks of trust
- Create a Virtual Water-Cooler™
- Explain the reasons behind ad hoc conversations
- Create a collage of what matters to you outside of work
- Generate other opportunities to share experiences and emotions
- Encourage more frequent contact
When I was at the Women’s Energy Network biennial conference in New Orleans earlier this month I had several conversations with people frustrated with the outcomes of conversations with their colleagues in different parts of the both the US and the wider world. Basic errors, late reporting and missed deadlines, despite good intentions, make life difficult and increase the pressure.
Often the underlying issue is around lack of clarity on both sides of the dialogue. Invariably this is influenced by differences in thinking and communication styles, but sometimes it is helpful to explore how putting in place certain structures could alleviate the problem.
Here then are two more ways of fueling excellent performance in virtual teams:
Create rules to reduce uncertainty. In global teams where colleagues do not share the same office or cultural upbringing the risk of misunderstanding is significant. Specific guidelines for team interaction diminish the chances of assumptions being made and enhance trust, thereby improving productivity. Some areas to agree on are:
- how quickly team members should respond to queries and requests from one another
- what happens if someone is slow to act
- the need for requests to be very specific e.g. rather than “Circle back to me” state
whether you want to give final input on a decision or simply be informed after the decision is made.
Be clear that multitasking on calls is not acceptable. We have all experienced the frustration of sensing that a colleague is not fully engaged in a conference call, and probably we have been tempted ourselves to finish sending an email or worse during a seemingly tedious meeting. So it’s no surprise that according to a recent study, 82% of people admit to doing other things during team calls. But unless everyone is mentally present and engaged, virtual collaboration just does not work. What can you do to bring everyone on board?
- Explain your policy and why it is important for trust and performance
- During virtual meetings, regularly call on people to share their thoughts so that it becomes the norm to be ready to respond
- Where possible use video which can essentially eliminate multitasking
- Practice what you preach and take time before your meeting to centre yourself and be really present. Of course there is the temptation, and sometimes the pressure from above, to fill your day with back-to-back meetings, but it’s a false economy. Less is definitely more in this case.
Where do need to make changes? What opportunities could you take advantage of if communication and collaboration were better in your team?