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You won’t get help from me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

(Photo: Sarah’s Blog)

One of your employees comes to you with an urgent problem and you know exactly what to do. It would take you only moments to make everything right in his world again, but should you? By giving him the answer are you really helping him or are you inhibiting his learning process?

People tend to comprehend and understand resolutions to situations and problems when they are forced to work through the details and potential solutions, their learning capacity is greater when they use critical thinking skills to manage their way through a problem.
“Always make new mistakes.” – Esther Dyson
 
Let Them Make Mistakes
Let’s face it; no one likes to make mistakes. A mistake can be an embarrassing blow to an ego, but what would a person learn if they were always just handed the answer? Probably not a lot. Mistakes allow a person to grow and be enlightened to a situation. Mistakes help people to move forward in life by embracing the mistake and learning a valuable lesson. Think back to one of your mistakes in life. If someone had just handed you the answer would you have learned as much from the situation?
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” –Socrates
 
What We Can Learn from Socrates?
Socrates gained fame for frequently engaging others in conversations attempting to define broad ideas. During his conversations, Socrates placed himself in the position of student, forcing his respondents to act in the role of teacher.  By taking the subordinate role you can guide others toward a better understanding of established topic. Let them teach you about the situation they are having difficulty with; by teaching you, they can in-turn increase their understanding and bring about a resolution.
 
Interrogation
No need for the handcuffs or interrogation room, but much can be learned through a line of pointed questions. Start from the beginning and walk them through the problem they are struggling with step-by-step. Only ask questions and don’t contribute to the resolution. As your employee answers each question they will revisit the steps which brought them to the situation they currently face. As you facilitate this process continue to ask questions which will lead them to that “ah-ha” moment. In the end they will have resolved the situation on their own by working through each step.
 
So What? And then what?
If you could only ask the employee these two seemingly confrontational questions; could you help them resolve their problem? The answer might surprise you. The point of this line of questioning is to get to the source by digging in deeper to the source of the problem thereby leading to the solution. In the end as you continue to ask, “So what?” or “And then what?” they will have determined the source of the problem they are facing and how they can benefit from it or make a change for the better.

Some of my career’s most valuable lessons have been learned by working through things on my own and being allowed to make mistakes. Inspire your team to work through situations permitting them to succeed on their own. Once they have worked through the situation, allow them help others get through similar situations, which in the end will also help them to understand the means to a positive learning process.
 
What other ways can you inspire your team to learn?

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What do you want from me?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1 comment

(Photo: Center for Nonverbal Studies)

Living up to other peoples expectations can be difficult, especially as a remote employee your expectations can be even more elusive. So how do you get through it? How do you determine if you are doing everything anticipated of you and delivering what is expected of you?

Ask Questions
If you want to deliver on expectations, you need to know what those expectations are. Be up front and revisit expectations regularly to determine if you are on track. Discover not only what your manager expects of you, but what is expected from you by others.

Set Milestones
Setting milestones will keep you on track to achieve your goals. As you progress through your scheduled milestones communicate them, it allows others to get the sense of what you are actually accomplishing even though they cannot see you working first hand.

Clear Communications
No one can see and appreciate the massive effort you are putting in so it is urgent to produce results and share your output with the team. Remember when you work remotely, no one is there to see your accomplishments first hand; the only way they will ever find out, is if you are delivering on your expectations and sharing your progress. They only know what you tell them and show them so don’t be humble, it’s not boasting, it’s communicating your progress.

Demonstrate Commitment
As with any great team loyalty and commitment  are critical. Be sure to demonstrate the attributes of a good team member:
  • On virtual team everyone works together and depends on one another so be sure to provide your team members what they need on time.
  • If there is an announcement or break through everyone could benefit from be sure the group is notified.
  • Share success stories with your team; if something worked well for you and improved a process it is likely something similar will work for others on your team and before you know it, your point of interest has become a best practice for the entire group.
  • For the most part people enjoy helping others to succeed, it makes you feel good inside when you help others in need. If someone helped you accomplish a task you could have not otherwise done your self or was just assisting you in meeting a timeline; tell the group, people appreciate the recognition and are grateful you recognize their efforts.
Sure it takes a little extra effort to keep everyone in the loop and to ensure you are living up to expectations, but in the end you will have achieved greater success through clarity and communications.
What are some best practices you have in place on your virtual team?

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Facebook as a Workplace Tool?

Thursday, February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

(Photo: Robert S. Donovan)

Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool? The answer may surprise you…
With so many virtual teams scattered and far flung around the globe we need to find a way to cultivate the team bonding experience achieved in an office. In today’s mobile workforce the sense of presence is limited which in turn decreases the opportunity for team bonding, communication and trust. Sure we all have email, phones and other means of communication; but what opportunity do we have to really get to know each other? What can be done to stifle the disconnect and bring people closer together? The answer is…Facebook.

Why Facebook?
What’s lacking in the virtual workforce is the personal bonding which typically occurs when colleagues work side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts. So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?

How Do I Get Started?
Start by creating a Facebook group for your team. If you company is large make sure you pare it down to only include the members of your team directly. Be sure to incorporate your team identity and include basic information to the group such as:

  • Links to company site and other team sites.
  • Newsletter.
  • Upcoming events including: Webinars, conferences and other programs where someone from your team will be present.
  • Update your group or fan page on a regular basis with helpful information.
  • Answer FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).

What Should Each Team Member Post?
Now you have your group set up and you are ready for your team to join the group and start posting. If any of your team members are new to Facebook here are some guidelines to assist them in determining the content they should share:

  • Individual bio’s
  • Background
  • Education
  • Work history
  • Areas of expertise
  • Certifications
  • Training
  • Work Goals
  • Family happenings
  • Personal Interests
  • Pictures
  • Personal Goals
  • _
    At first they may be apprehensive about contributing personal information to the group, let’s face it many people are a little uneasy about tipping their cards. Make clear to them you would not expect them to share any information they would not otherwise discuss if they were in an office setting. Explain to them you are working to create a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected. It is also significant to note to your virtual team there are many security settings on Facebook allowing them to pare down the information they choose to share with the group.

    What Should Each Team Member Avoid?
    How do you know what is appropriate? Of course it is imperative for people to know the boundaries of acceptable material. Set specific guidelines and add to them as needed, to start…

    • All information should be non-proprietary.
    • Be respectful of the company, brand, and reputation.
    • Avoid rumors and gossip.
    • Steer clear of stories or photos which may seem provocative or make others in the group uncomfortable.
    • Set guidelines for the amount of time spent online.

    Why Incorporate Facebook at All?

    “We think it could be valuable when used in an appropriate way.” – Haydn Long, spokesperson for Flight Centre

    Employers are embracing Facebook and believe it can help build a sense of community amongst employees and help foster bonds with clients. A spokesperson for Facebook stated, “Facebook is an incredibly efficient way for people with real-world connections to share information and communicate, including among people who work together.” Among other things Facebook is a good way to…

    • Increase trust: Colleagues get to know one another, then like each other and when they like each other they trust each other.
    • Immerse a new employee into the group by getting to know the interests of their counterparts.
    • Have long term employees gain further insight to their colleagues.
    • Allow for a connection and create a sense of presence you would otherwise find in an office environment.
    • Stay up-to-date as people’s interests change.

    Let’s face it remote employees are spread far and wide across the globe today and if you are looking to bolster loyalty to the company and generate a team atmosphere it is crucial you embrace the technologies available to your workforce. Rather than forbidding these tools as many employers do find ways to utilize them as functional workplace mechanisms.

    Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool; what are your thoughts?

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    What I’ve learned from playing with LEGO®

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2 comments

    (Photo: Legospective, originally uploaded by Guillermо.)

    There I was, a young child, sitting in the middle of the floor in my parent’s living room with my box of LEGO® bricks, each in their own compartment sorted by color. My options were endless; with LEGO® I could be anyone, go anywhere and do anything. Now thirty odd years later in my own living room I relive those memories, sitting on the floor with my sons, toiling with them as they build their own LEGO® dreams.

    As indirect as it may seem, I learned much from playing with my LEGO® building bricks. Many of those same lessons my sons will learn too.

    1. Organization

    “Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.”

    To this day, I am particularly organized; including lists, calendars, general tidiness and yes – color coding! Did it all start there so many years ago placing each color LEGO® into it’s own pile making sure none of the blue were mixed in with the red? Who knows, but I do know every day when it was time to clean up, each piece went back into its own color coded compartment ensuring the next time I brought them out, no sorting would be needed.

    2. Following Instructions

    I don’t remember them when I was a kid, but in today’s LEGO® sets there are step-by-step instructions of how to put together each item in the set. The coolest creations are made easy following along with page after page of pictures stepping you through the construction. Maybe it stifles the creativity a bit, but what it does is teach you how you can accomplish your tasks by following along with the directions. Not bad lessons to learn as you are starting out in life.

    “Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” – Frank Tyger

    3. Creativity

    “Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” – William Plomer

    Once you get past the instructions and let your creativity flow, the options are infinite. With the LEGO® bricks in hand you can build whatever you want; there are no limits. When you build a straight up tower of bricks, it can be a rocket ship or a tall building or a sword, your imagination is your own limitation. Let your mind be your guide as you steer toward your life’s destiny.

    4. Patience

    “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” – Saint Augustine

    Building with LEGO® bricks is a slow progression. It can be a grueling process, but it is a lesson in the value of patience. And patience is a virtue teaching you self control and restraint.

    5. Attention to Detail

    “In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.” – Lou Holtz

    Piece by piece you labor to advance your work of genius; each part needing to be in the right spot in order to achieve your desired outcome. I watch as my son studies in detail the pictures on the box, carefully calculating the placement and adjacencies needed in order to build his next LEGO® project. I recall similar analysis myself at a young age and to this day you can find me sitting down with a pad of paper and pencil to layout the design of my next project.

    6. Adapt to the Situation

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. – George Bernard Shaw

    One day you can build an airplane and the next day, with those same LEGO® bricks, you can build a skyscraper. If you find yourself a few LEGO® pieces short for your intended project you can modify your results by using another color, a different piece or scaling down your design. The possibilities are never ending. In life everything will not happen as we intended, we need to be able to revise our plans when necessary and go with the flow.

    7. Any Mistake Can Be Fixed

    “Ok, I can fix this” – My son upon breaking one of his LEGO® creations.

    My son enters my office to showcase his latest LEGO® construction. As he extends his arms to present me with his creation as it breaks into two. There were no tears, no grumblings of anger, none of the negativity you might expect when something you worked so hard to build falls apart. On the contrary the first words out of his mouth were, “Ok, I can fix this.” We can all learn a lesson from this type of can do attitude, knowing no matter how awful circumstances may seem our problems can be repaired with a little ingenuity.

    8. Problem Solving

    “Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity.” – MacGyver

    One of the greatest characteristics I developed playing with LEGO® is the ability to know I could use my mind to remedy any situation. No challenge was too great; I would always be able to determine a method for success. It may not have been my original intended approach, but I knew there was always a path to my final destination.

    9. You Can Build the Impossible Dream

    “Without dreams, there is no reality!” – Luis B. Couto

    Dreams are the means to a desired end. With LEGO® bricks you can capture those ideas, you can construct your vision no matter how large an obstacle it may seem. The same applies to your life; never accept that something cannot be accomplished – despite the barriers to can realize your dreams.

    10. Never Give Up

    “Never, never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

    Sure there are times when you want to throw your hands up in defeat, I did it myself and I see it from my sons as they construct a LEGO® projects, but the answer is to never give up. Determination is a key factor in life; if you endure the journey keeping the vision alive you will see some of the greatest accomplishments achieved you never thought would happen.

    11. Teamwork

    “The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side” – Margaret Carty

    We can all use a little help now and again, my sons will periodically come up to us for assistance with their LEGO® creations needing my wife or me to snap a piece or two together. Sometimes we can all use a little guidance to get us through a tough spot and it is good to know you have others to rely on. There is no need to go through a difficult situation alone; the insights from others can often be inspiring as they allow us to see circumstances from perspectives outside of our own architecture.

    12. Celebrate your Achievements

    “The virtue of achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat.” – A.J. Cronin

    Finally, you have worked so hard to carry out your objective don’t let your labors go unnoticed. Boast your accomplishments with humility and place your LEGO® creation up on the shelf for all to see. The same policy is relevant in later life; use tact, but be proud of your accomplishments.

    Those are just a few of the lessons I learned from play with LEGO®; I’m sure there are many more. Who knew back in 1934, when a carpenter turned, wooden toy maker, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well,” and put them together; the concept later developed by LEGO® would expand into a global staple of childhood toys shaping the minds, visions and futures of children into adulthood.

    “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” W. Clement Stone

    What other life lessons have you carried into adulthood based on your childhood experiences?

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    Team Bonding with a Virtual Workforce

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 3 comments

    (Image: Jason Christensen – Created in PowerPoint)

    A growing number of companies are instituting virtual workforces allowing the employees to be closer to their customers and working in a remote environment. These remote employees work distantly from the members of their team and may rarely have in person contact. As a manager you soon learn you can set up a group of employees to work as a team, but that doesn’t mean they will feel like a team.

    What’s lacking is the personal bonding. In an office, personal bonding usually occurs with colleagues working side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, understand each other’s skill sets, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. With so many virtual teams spread far and wide across the globe today; can you still cultivate the bonding experience achieved in an office?

    The answer is “yes,” but it is not going to be without challenge, effort and proper systems set in place.

    A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts. So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?

    “When everyone works together, things start getting done and the nearly impossible tasks are accomplished.”

    Where to Begin

    Start with a group meeting in person, if possible. Miscommunication and conflicting expectations often arise early in the project. This formal gathering will allow you to:

    • Set goals and objectives as a group.
    • Define team roles.
    • Establish relationships amongst team members.
    • Construct a team identity.
    • Build a foundation for trust.

    If you are not able to bring everyone together in person, create a virtual environment where the team can gather to collaborate on these objectives. It may not be as effective, but it will begin the process and allow your remote employees to interact on a more personal basis.

    Developing Team Goals

    The entire team needs to have a clear understanding of their purpose and what they are looking to accomplish. Through collaboration a team can develop the goals and the processes needed to achieve their objectives. As the leader it is important you guide the team making sure their action plan is (SMART):

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Timed

    By allowing the team to set the goals for themselves it gives them ownership in the process knowing they had a part in the decision making.

    Defining Team Roles

    The process of team bonding encourages team members to learn how to manage conflict, evaluate group performance, and provide feedback and support encouraging each member to reach their highest potential. In a team-oriented environment, every member contributes to the overall success of the organization. While each person may have a specific job function, everyone is unified to accomplish the overall objective.

    Each team member should have a definite role as part of the group and every member of the team needs to be aware of each associates function and responsibility. Having clearly defined roles enhances the understanding of the workflow and increases productivity. Thereby each member of the team understands what the next person in the process needs to complete their task and can be sure to provide them all the facets needed to do their job properly.

    Getting to Know Each Other

    In your initial gathering you should allow time for people to get to know one another. You should have a round table where each team member takes a few minutes to talk about:

    • Who they are.
    • Where they came from.
    • Family.
    • Their interests.
    • Life experiences.
    • Personal goals.
    • Professional background.
    • Their role on the team.
    • What they are looking to achieve in their career.

    These types of discussion will open doors for common bonds between the members of the team allowing them to take interest in one another.

    Following these discussions the information should be gathered and posted to a team site. As time goes by people lose track of the information shared and interests change so the site should be easily updatable by each member of the team. A good online forum readily available is Facebook where private groups can be created. This forum also allows each person to upload pictures and other information about themselves creating a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected.

    Building a Team Identity

    A common feeling of identity is a vital part of taking your group from solitude to companionship. People have an inherent interest in feeling part of something special. During your initial assembly allow the team to work together in developing a distinctive individuality.

    Once developed, use this identity on all project documents, presentations, team sites, and related materials; it will further strengthen the character of the group

    Trust Building

    Cohesive teams cannot be built without trust. Each member of the group needs to have full faith in the other members knowing each team members is skilled and dependable in his area of expertise. However, trust takes time to grow and mature; so how do you cultivate trust?

    If you have implemented the recommendations above you have already taken great strides in laying the foundation for strong trusting relationships. To further nurture the process below are a few ideas which have been used successfully:

    • Start a buddy system, a first source of information. Each team member is a assigned a buddy, preferably one who compliments the others skills and abilities, carefully chosen to be a mentor to one another. This unit relies on each other for answers to questions, advice and general commentary. When the group members utilize the expertise each offers, they understand the value of their counterparts in their roles and enhances their confidence in the group.
    • Assign group projects. On a rotating basis pull together members of the team to complete goal related projects impelling them to work closely with one another gaining knowledge of the other team members capabilities and strengths.
    • As a manager knowing the strengths of your team gives you the ability to build the bench strength by delegating. By knowing the strengths of your team, when approached for assistance, you have the ability to ask them to utilize a particular team member who may be stronger than you in the particular area. Essentially you are assigning “go to” guys for particular areas where a member of your team is strong. Not only does this free some of your time, it is also an exercise in building bench strength and most of all it enhances team members confidence in one another.
    • Injecting humor, at the expense of yourself helps to break down barriers and creates an understanding with your team you are regular person
    • Willful collaboration among team members and sharing information to assist each other in achieving goals is a key attribute to encourage within a team.

    As the trust expands through the group, the team members will start support the other members of the team and pick each other up if they start to tumble.

    Enhancing Communication

    “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

    Communication amongst a virtual team enhances the fellowship of the group and should be made as easy as walking over to the water cooler. There are many possibilities to augment a virtual community:

    • Shared virtual workspace.
    • Online forum such as Facebook.
    • SharePoint site to store team files.
    • Instant messaging program.
    • Weekly conference calls.
    • Web Conferences.
    • Virtual conference rooms.
    • And believe it or not — the telephone!

    Celebrate Accomplishments

    Nothing is worse than working so hard to achieve greatness and no one ever finds out. It is important to celebrate the wins on a team and send a flag up the virtual flag pole staking your claim. As a leader it is your duty to communicate these wins to everyone who will listen and reward the members of your team for their accomplishments. Congratulatory compliments are a vital part of bonding people on a team. Make the announcements personal and call on the individual(s) responsible to “toot their own horn” in a group setting explaining what they did and how they did it.

    Virtual Gathering

    One of the greatest challenges with a virtual team is the social solitude people feel outside of an office environment. To offset this seclusion you can coordinate activities which build identity, unity and a competitive spirit within your entire team.

    • Hold an online poker tournament.
    • Depending on the group, a combat game might be of interest.
    • Host a Second Life event.
    • Participate in a virtual team farming exercise.

    There are many games and social events to take part in over the internet or through electronic gaming devices; pick something fitting of your team which allows them to accomplish a common goal.

    Todays virtual environment can be taxing and as a leader you must work hard to unite your group. Personal bonding in a virtual environment is going to be challenging, but the more you can do to develop this connection between group members; the more productive they will be, greater motivation they will have, morale will increase , retention rates will be greater and you will have a strongly bonded team.

    What are some methods you have seen used in a virtual workforce situation?

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    Betrayed in the Fourth Grade

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010 1 comment

    (Photo: hayitstayler)

    It was a begrudging incident the day we voted for fourth grade class officers I remember it well…

    The year was 1984; incumbent President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale were vying for our nation’s top spot. As a practice in politics my fourth grade teacher opened the door for us to campaign as class officers. My chosen position – Class Secretary. My opponent – a cute, kind hearted girl I had befriended since pre-school. We campaigned through the classroom working to secure the votes of our classmates. Election Day arrived and each member of the class cast their votes for President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Once the ballots were tallied the officers were announced, but wait there was a tie. As it turns out the votes were split 50/50 for the position of Class Secretary. With neither candidate willing to concede the teacher called for a revote. Prior to casting the second round of ballots my opponent the sweet, kind, girl I had known for the majority of my life, who I sat next to in class, leaned over to me and offered an olive branch, “If you vote for me, I will vote for you.” Wow, such a kind offer, a show of support for true friendship by supporting one another, no matter which of us wins we’d know this election, would not come between us.

    The second round of voting commenced, the teacher counted the ballots and this time there was a clear winner. The announcement was made, “The winner, by the change of a single vote is…,” we’ll just say, it wasn’t me. Disappointed by the loss, I vowed to go on supporting my friend who I had shared a keen friendship with for so many years. But wait, this just in! Word had spread through the classroom newswire, the vote that tipped the scales in her advantage, was….her own! My long time friend had broken our pact, tricked me and voted for herself. My feeling was that of devastation. How could someone do such a thing? How could my life long friend deceive me? The anguish of this event hit me hard, it was this day I learned an early lesson in life. The lesson of BETRAYAL!

    Betrayal can strike us hard, obviously – for me to refer back to this incident from more than 25 years ago. It is a life lesson most of us learn at some point along our path, but not one we easily forget.

    Once trust is broken, can it ever be repaired? Sure, but it is not going to happen overnight and it is not going to come easily. Trust can take years to rebuild it is something you have to believe in and work hard at.

    What is betrayal?

    Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive social contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship.

    Resolving Betrayal
    The first question should be, “Do both parties want to repair the relationship?” If not, then you cannot force it on them, it is best to move on. Hopefully with time, forgiveness will come.

    If both parties are in agreement and would like to move forward rebuilding the relationship then it needs to begin with courageous integrity on behalf of the offender. The guilty party needs to:

    • Admit fault.
    • State their mistake.
    • View the breach of trust from the victim’s perspective.
    • Listen to the offended party allowing them to speak without interruption.
    • Reflect their feelings, avoiding the temptation to explain your actions. This can have a negative affect leading to a feeling of your insincerity by the injured party.
    • Accept responsibility for the violation.

    Rebuilding Trust
    Can trust be rebuilt? Most likely, with time the wounds will heal. Although steps will have to be taken to rebuild the trust once shared by all parties.

    • Set up an agreement going forward stating boundaries for all parties involved.
    • Determine methods continuing the relationship without overstepping the bounds.
    • Allow time for memory of the incident of to dissipate.
    • Make amends.

    Aftermath
    Even when forgiveness has been granted and reparations have been made, relationships do not always return to normal after violations of trust. The violator often has lingering feelings of guilt, embarrassment and self-consciousness when around the victim. It may take time for the victim’s emotions to wane as well. Full forgiveness may take weeks, months or even years, but if everyone involved is committed to the relationship time will help to heal those wounds.

    So, do I resent my fourth grade friend for something that happened so many years ago? No, let’s face it, we were nine years old at the time, I have long forgiven her; in fact she represents to me, someone who alerted me to the stratagem we can experience in life. She taught me early on, trust is a sacred contract between people and once broken, it is not easily repaired. People learn from many of life’s lessons, but few have such a great impact on us as those of trust and betrayal.

    Do you have any stories of betrayal? Feel free share, I’d love to hear them.

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    Trust me.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 3 comments

    (Photo: SFview)

    How do you trust someone you rarely see? When leading a virtual team it is important to build a trusting environment for everyone involved. When there is trust people tend to excel, grow, and hold a strong commitment to the company.

    Building trust and maintaining it is one of the unique challenges that virtual teams encounter. Without a lot of face time, it is very difficult to create the relationships that are necessary for success.

    Relationship Development

    Trust is an important factor in relationship development. Like any good relationship things take time to grow. When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Make the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

    Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to stronger bonds.

    Availability Through Communication

    With differences in time zones, varied schedules, and the lack of physical presence it can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. As a leader you need to be cognizant of this a do everything you can to make yourself available. After all how can your team trust and rely on you if they are never able to reach you?

    • Always take their calls or return their calls promptly.
    • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
    • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.
    • Use instant messaging, not only does it allow you to be easily accessible, but it also creates a feeling of fellowship when you can see everyone’s availability at a glance.

    Avoiding Speculation

    It is easy to loose trust if it seems a member of your team is not holding up their end of the bargain. In a remote situation it things are not always as they seem. Say for example you have called a member of your team several times in one day and have not been able to reach them. Are they taking a nap? Are they running personal errands? Are out doing yard work? Maybe not. It could be they are on the phone or in a meeting with a client. It could be they are working toward an important deadline and not picking up their phone to avoid distraction. Refrain from being presumptuous and make sure it’s not just your perception. If you find this happening with regularity, address the situation and avoid speculation.

    Consistency

    Consistency is important in developing trust with a virtual team. It is important to:

    • Hold regular conference calls or video conferences for the team to communicate with one another and feel as if they are sharing the same conference room.
    • Have monthly or quarterly in-person meetings if possible. To allow rapport to build through face-to-face conversations as well as team building exercises.

    Part of consistency is holding yourself and the group to distinct timelines by:

    Reliability

    Doing what you say you will do is a principle of great significance. To build trust in a virtual situation, leaders must be responsible and reliable.

    Maintaining promises is important. Often when people go sight unseen it is easy to forget their needs. To grow trust you will need to fulfill any promises you make to your team, delivered in full and on time. I have found by keeping a task list using assigned due dates helps to keep you on schedule.

    In promoting a team atmosphere the team members not only need to feel they can rely on you, but also the competency of their co-workers.

    “We normally develop a respect for co-workers competence, by observing them. When we are virtual, we don’t have this opportunity.”

    It is important to work hard at displaying the talents of each team member amongst the group. Some ways to do this are:

    • Creating team projects where you group team members together in order to complete projects occasionally so they develop rapport and learn the strengths of one another.
    • Instilling a buddy system allowing team members to call each other for business advice and general company questions. This is often best accomplished with veterans and rookie employees as well as employees from different divisions.

    Promoting a team atmosphere

    Can team members trust each other if they never see one another? Absolutely, but systems need to be set in place in order to allow teams to gather around a “virtual water cooler.” It is vital to promote a team atmosphere even when your team is remote Some exceptional tools you can utilize to connect which help greatly are:

    • Instant messaging.
    • Weekly conference calls.
    • Webinars.
    • Virtual conference rooms.
    • And believe it or not — the telephone!

    While implementing these programs do not forget the personal touches:

    • Celebrate team accomplishments.
    • Give a “shout-out” when it is someone’s birthday.
    • Let the group know when a team member has hit a milestone in their career with the company.
    • Take personal experiences from members of the team and tie them into your meeting topics.

    Trust is a two way street; the leader and the team members both have to work hard to grow that trust and build dependable relationships with one another. Without the trust factor you are bound for team failure.

    What are some trust builders you have done with your team?

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