Who does not know what working virtually means today? Working with zoom, Microsoft teams, WebEx, and other vendors nearly everyone has been on a virtual meeting of one sort or another. The question is what you can do to collaborate better with others going forward in our virtual world. When virtual teams work well together here are some of the statistics worth noting.
- 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate
- A 20-30% increase in productivity is provided by online collaboration tools and digital workplaces.
- 85% of employees with access to collaborative management tools are more likely to perceive themselves as happy in the workplace.[i]
This tells us that virtual collaboration is here to stay and learning best practices can only enhance what we do. Most articles focus on software collaboration. This is important, but there are many other areas of concern besides the software.
Here are 10 challenges and opportunities that are worth noting.
Challenges and Opportunities
Learning something new and how to apply it by itself is challenging. When you are used to face to face meetings, someone walking into your office or you walking into theirs, as well as being able to bump into people in the hallway, going virtual is a major change. You have been going through this now for more than a year with the pandemic. There are a host of challenges many of which you have overcome. Here are some challenges and ideas that you may find helpful to collaborate with others virtually.
1. The need to create a team environment is particularly important.
An ice breaker of something fun at the start of a meeting breaks the tension,
ensures timely start times for everyone to be part of the ice breaker, and sets a positive tone. It can be something quite simple like “where would you like to go for an all expense paid vacation anywhere in the world for two weeks?” Here are some other ideas:
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Where was your best vacation?
- What kind of music do you like to listen to?
- Focus on something looking at next month – for example in December new year’s resolutions for January
- Ask your team for ideas they would like bought up
Check out various ideas for icebreakers on line.
2, Develop trust. This is one of the foundations of The Collaboration Effect®. Without trust you are not going anywhere. Be there for your employees. Be a servant manager. Be there for others and have their backs. Focus on being straightforward, open, accepting, and responsible. Operate with integrity and honesty. Be transparent with others. Do not assume or judge others. Do what you say you are going to do by under promising and overdelivering.
3. Give feedforward. We all make mistakes. We all screw up. Forgive, when this happens, but do not simply provide feedback, provide feedforward. Feedback tells the other party what they did wrong. Feedforward looks to the future and allows you to ask “what can ‘we” do in the future having learned from this experience. The key words are “we” and “future”. Make it about us, not about the other person alone. Be there to help.
4. Have clear roles and responsibilities. Working with Project Managers Institute chapters nationally, this is consistently one of the areas of critical importance. Understanding how to delegate effectively and how to be a delegatee optimally are crucial aspects to knowing who is responsible for what and by when. Take the time to think about delegation ahead of time. Go over this in detail and share your thoughts explaining not only the task but the why behind the task.
5. Balancing work time and personal time for each individual really matters. Think about their personal situation and their challenges with their families and with life. Think about spouses, partners, children, extended family members, pets, and other demands. Keep in mind balance means with their entire family when working from home. This is a lot more complex with multiple jobs, homework time and the needs of everyone.
6. Practice best practices in terms of manners and protocols. Focus on listening more. Focus on being interested rather than being interesting. Check your own assumptions. Be curious. Ask open ended questions. Suspend judgment. Set time limits. Be respectful of time. Plan these out ahead of time. Be polite and considerate.
7. Keep the meeting engaging. Take time for questions and thank others for offering questions. Focus on the big issue. Work off your agenda. Formulate the agenda with attendees ahead of time. How can you keep them engaged? Consider stories, poll questions, different people presenting, alternative formats, and ideas from your team.
8. Feelings of isolation are to be expected and need to be addressed. This is especially true for newer employees. For this reason, make sure and
add in not only check in for work at least weekly but also add check in socially on how employees are doing.
A personal chat can be very uplifting. Everyone has different needs. See how this is received. For some this can be liberating, refreshing and helpful. Do not underestimate the power of checking in regularly.
9. Overprepare for check in professionally or social meetings. Make sure you have addressed all of their needs that you can think of. If you are delegating something go over the who, what, when, where, why and how associated with the task. Discuss authority, responsibility, periodic check in with you and other elements you deem important. Ask the delegatee what questions or concerns they have and make sure you address them.
10. Managing employees across multiple time zones or even in different countries around the world. This requires significant forethought on what time you set up a meeting given geographic disparity. Be considerate. Think of life outside of work and demonstrate that you care for everyone.
These are ten challenges to think about and turn into opportunities with your team. You have likely thought of many of these, but networking with others and doing some research these seem to be a top ten list of elements. If this article reinforced what you are doing, great. If you found something new, write it down and give it a try. You may be surprised on how this idea may positively impact you and your team.
About the author
Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]