Motivating Your Virtual Team

Virtual Case Study: The Importance of Awareness in Virtual Teams

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vitualteampicMany companies start working virtually almost by accident. They grow larger, and employees begin to work farther apart – even as little as 50 feet between colleagues can change the way they communicate, and the skills they need to do so effectively. This skill gap is even more pronounced when colleagues are separated by entire floors,  cities, or continents.

In this case study, we will look at one multinational company’s  journey from inefficiency and frustration to productivity and success and it all starts with one word: awareness.

Client Background: Professional Learning Strategist

While developing an online educational platform for a multinational corporation, this Virtual Team Builders client (a professional learning strategist with extensive experience in the development of corporate training programs) recognized a pattern: colleagues who worked virtually had a consistent, pervading sense that they simply weren’t working effectively.

“They had started working virtually, but never really articulated the skills required to do so effectively. They just sort of assumed that people would start doing it, but all they had done was adopt inefficient technologies and implement them in inefficient ways. And nobody really knew.”

The Challenge: Lack of Virtual Awareness

Virtual meetings,  held via Teleconference or Web Conference platforms such as WebEx and Skype For Business were particular struggles, featuring characteristics such as:

  • miscommunication
  • inefficiency
  • poor engagement
  • lack of participation

The strategist found that the most effective way to demonstrate the necessity of developing virtual teamwork and communication skills was simply to expose her client to them.

“We brought in Virtual Team Builders to assist on this project and you could see the ‘aha’ moment. It’s when people experienced a really good, really effective virtual meeting and improved communication between meetings. For the first time, they began to realize just how effective their team could be with the right skills in place.”

The Solution: Virtual Teamwork, Not Virtual Training

What this client recognized was that training in the virtual environment is quite different from working in it – and yet there are far more resources on the former than the latter. Communication tools that we take for granted in co-located teams such as face time and body language simply aren’t there in the virtual space, and few people know how to use the resources available to them to drive engagement.

“I’ve seen people who use WebEx but actively disable all but the bare minimum features. You can’t even use your webcam, the white board, annotation tools or use VoIP. All of these wonderful tools to provide face time and encourage participation and engagement, and people are too overwhelmed to explore them.”

Key Virtual Team Takeaway

By taking the time to develop their virtual team skills and knowledge, the learning strategist’s client experienced:

  • a significant increase in morale
  • productivity boost
  • less attrition
  • increased collaboration

To drive these results, the learning hub developed by the strategist included resources on working virtually, and an opportunity for people to talk about their specific challenges. Virtual Team Builders offered four one-hour sessions to align with the topics in the hub. These courses are now available to the public, and are accredited for Leadership Professional Development Units (PDUs).

Do you have a virtual team? Register for our upcoming courses (accredited for Leadership PDUs) to learn valuable virtual skills, or contact us to inquire about a virtual assessment of your team and it’s unique needs.

By : Michal Spiar /March 11, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team NeedsDid you know that if your team members are separated by as little as 90 feet, you have a virtual team? Physical separation between team members can lead to challenges that teams working in closer proximity simply don’t face.

Before we share some our favorite icebreakers, I am going to get on my soapbox and tell you that icebreakers are only the tip of the iceberg. Icebreakers alone do not build long-term, sustainable relationships. Building relationships is an ongoing process that requires time, attention, authenticity and trust.

That said, icebreakers do play a role in building relationships, but different ones serve different purposes for different teams. Ask yourself, “Exactly what kind of ice needs to be broken?” Here are the top five icebreaker tips you need to know for your virtual team:

1. Sharing is bonding

We’ve all been in a web conference with a group of faceless voices. Who exactly is everyone speaking to? What do they know about each other? If you are bringing people together who are working on a common goal the ice that you are melting may result in creating a bond.

Icebreaker Idea

It’s In The Mail is an activity for groups of up to 25. Before the meeting, team members should email a unique and unknown fact about themselves to the meeting facilitator. At the start of the session or during a lull in the meeting, the facilitator will pick an email to read and have the other attendees guess who the email belongs to.

2. Make time for face time

Even if you are bringing together like-minded people, the “ice” may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met – and where teams are dispersed across different offices or continents, they may never do so in person.

Icebreaker Idea

Match Box is for groups up to 10 people. Prior to the meeting, create a slide with everyone’s pictures and post the slide onto the whiteboard. Ensure that each picture is numbered.

Then match people’s voices to their faces. Choose one picture at a time and ask the team to guess who they think it is. You can use the raised hand feature, chat or by giving verbal responses.

3. Anticipate culture shock

If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures and outlooks within your virtual team then the “ice” may come from people’s perceptions of each other.

Icebreaker Idea

Metaphor Magic is for groups up to 10 people. Have your team members come up with a list of words or phrases that have different interpretations or meanings. Ask your team members to define what they think that word or phrase means.

4. Know your team

Teams have different needs and preferences. Some teams may gravitate towards “fun” activities while others may be more inclined to link the activity to a purpose such as brainstorming or problem solving. Remember to personalize the activity for the needs of your virtual team.

5. Use the tools available to you

Web conferencing platforms enable your team members to express themselves and collaborate in new and creative ways, but many teams never use anything but the basic conference call functionality. Leverage interactive tools such as white boards, paired chat, the raised hand feature and polling to give everyone a variety of ways to engage with one another.

Interested in learning more about icebreakers for your virtual team? Register for our free webinar Building Relationships at a Distance for detailed advice and best practices, and get the most out of your virtual team. For a deeper dive, purchase the informative book Across the Hall, Around the World: Teambuilding Tips for Distributed Business from the Virtual Team Builders marketplace.

 

By : Michal Spiar /January 27, 2017 /Blog, CEO concerns, Motivating Your Virtual Team, virtual introductions /0 Comment Read More

Welcome 2017 by Thinking and Re-thinking

As another year comes to the fore, we are once again in that funny place that is both encouraging yet daunting, as we strive to understand how to best handle this vast, untouched span of 365 days that lay before us.
This New Year can bring greatness if you allow it; no matter the past, we now have the renewed chance of starting afresh, of clearing our mindsets that limit us, and of gaining greater clarity for the upcoming year. This process of starting afresh begins with learning about ourselves and how we work so that we may implement our positive learning experiences in meaningful ways in the New Year.
To ease into 2017, we suggest a short exercise that will hopefully challenge you to a bit of productive and honest introspection. Through Thinking and Re-Thinking, we prompt you to reflect on your past year, to positively acknowledge important insights you have gained thus far and to ultimately contemplate how the things you have learned will meaningfully impact and inform how you approach 2017.
Get a pen and notepad or open up your computer-let’s start!
Think About How You Did This Past Year
 
Before you move onto planning how you will handle 2017, assess this past year. Our past offers a gold mine of experience and expertise that can structure how we may go about and approach our future decisions. Ask yourself:
1)     Did I achieve my goals for 2016?
2)     What was one major challenge I and/or my virtual team handled well in 2016?
3)     What was one major team challenge that could have been handled in a better way if I were to     face it  again in the future?
4)     How did I measure the effectiveness of my virtual team in 2016?
5)     What did I do to build sustaining relationships with my virtual team to boost productivity?
Now think about what you will do differently this year.

Now Re-think About How Your Team Did This Past Year

Closely associated to Thinking is Rethinkingthat is, recognizing and doing away with our blind spots. We all possess some form of a blind spot. Similar to driving a car, where our rear-view-mirrors, headrests or even backseat passengers may obscure our vision, the clarity to properly navigate a virtual team may also become obscured when our blind spot clouds our judgement. 
 
Sometimes, these blind spots come in the form of assumptions. Our assumptions are blind spots because they lie beyond what we can identify and correct. These assumptions may be pre-conceived notions about how our virtual team is functioning. 
So, before you move onto planning how you will move towards greater success in 2017,  begin the
New Year by sitting down with your team and ask them these questions:

    
  1. What went well for you in 2016?
  2. What do you need more of in 2017?
  3. What do you need less of in 2017?
  4. What can I do to support your growth and development?
So as you move into 2017, spend some time to reflecting on your blind spots and checking in with your virtual team about what they need to succeed. 
    
By : Claire Sookman /January 01, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

How can self-awareness grow more effective leaders?

In our last blog post, we talked about authenticity: far from being a feel-good fad, authenticity has been found to be incredibly important to leaders, and especially to leaders of virtual teams.

Suffice it to say that authenticity breeds trust, and trust is the driving force for engagement, productivity, and results in virtual teams. Authenticity is also surprisingly hard to achieve. To be authentic is a process of learning to be self-aware.

We believe that authenticity is a major facet of the human side of virtual teams. Authenticity refers to being true to who we are.

  • How often in our daily lives do we exhibit our genuine selves by being honest with ourselves and others about what we feel and desire?
  • How often do we pursue the things in life that truly make us happy?

Authenticity breeds trust, and trust is the driving force for employee engagement, productivity, and results in virtual teams.Our authentic selves must be expressed through our actions; in other words, we must live genuinely. Living genuinely allows us to be fully present in our jobs, families, and every activity in which we are engaged in, including our virtual teams.

We can’t be fully aware of our authentic selves without being fully present. So let’s take a moment to reflect on our level of self awareness.

Evaluating your level of self-awareness

We have a series of things to consider to guide you through this process.

  • Do you respond with awareness in my virtual meetings? At your next virtual meeting, become the observer and notice how you respond to your colleagues or team members.
  • When someone offers a dissenting opinion, do you take a moment to reflect and respond in a way that values others’ viewpoints?
  • Do you listen for the intent of what is being said, not just the words that our colleagues use? Do you multitask during your meetings?
  • Do you listen for the tone of voice, the pace of their words, and notice whether your colleagues or team members are stressed?
  • Do you judge what someone is saying or do you seek to understand?

What else do you notice about yourself in and out of virtual meetings?

What do you notice about your team members?

  • Do you notice that they’re present or multi-tasking on mute?
  • Do you notice your team members respond quickly to opinions or questions without reflecting?

How to use self-awareness as a leader

One way of encouraging your virtual team to be present is to open up the dialogue to them about what it means to be authentic and present.If you are the leader, consider how you can influence your team in a positive way. One way of encouraging your virtual team to be present, be more aware, and be more authentic is to open the dialogue to them about what presence looks like in your team.

At the beginning of a meeting, have a conversation with your virtual team about what being present looks like; engage your entire team in the conversation.

Self-awareness leads to presence

The more you are aware of your behaviour, the more authentic and present you can be, and the stronger of a leader you can grow.

In our next blog we’ll continue developing our self-evaluation from an outside source: we’re going to ask how your team members perceive you.

By : Claire Sookman /July 16, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

How to Encourage Your Virtual Team to Embrace Challenges

If you’re a virtual manager, you work in a landscape that is changing ever so quickly. New internet applications, new technology, and new social media sites pop up constantly and only add to the chaos. Working in a virtual environment means getting your team to embrace these constant demands and challenges, instead of resisting them.

This is a tricky thing to do.

You might have seen it all before. You’re ready to start a new project that you think is new and challenging—and you just know everyone else will feel the same way. After all, everybody likes learning something new that challenges their skills, don’t they?

You assign the tasks to your team, thinking they will embrace the challenge. The project may even start out well, but then everything unravels. Some team members miss their deadlines; others seem disengaged and disinterested.

What seems to be the problem?

As a virtual manger, your job is to give them work that challenges and inspires them to be their best, right?

Well, yes. And no.

Maybe.

Here’s the thing: In an ideal work environment, like at Goggle or Apple, the employees probably love trying new things and being challenged. In fact, if they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t be working for Apple or Google in the first place.

Unfortunately, not every company can hire topnotch, self-motivated and resilient workers. Actually, there are lots of people that hate learning new skills and being evaluated for their performance.

In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck, PH.D, says that these people have a “fixed mindset”. She argues that people either have one of two mindsets: a growth or a fixed one. The person with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence, creativity, skills, and personality are set in stone—that they cannot be changed. A fixed mindset employee hates being tested and evaluated, because if they were to be judged poorly, they would feel like a hopeless failure.

The person with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that learning, progress and practice are the keys to success. They believe that their skills and intelligence can be developed and nurtured. If they fail at some task, it’s not because they are flawed or incapable of doing it right, it’s simply because they didn’t try hard enough.

The amazing thing about growth mindset workers is that they embrace challenges and learning new things. Sounds like the kind of worker you’d want on your virtual team!

Well, you’re in luck, because your whole team can develop a growth mindset. It just takes caring on your part to communicate that you’re behind them all the way, that you want to see them grow and learn and fulfill their potential.

So, how do you encourage your team to take on a growth mindset so that they love learning new things and embracing challenging work? Follow these two tips:

1. Let your team know that it’s okay to struggle and that nothing worth doing comes easy. Reassure them that struggling is a sure-fire sign they are learning and growing and uncovering hidden potential in themselves. Often when we struggle, we keep it to ourselves so that nobody thinks we’re unfit for the job. You want to banish all those feelings of shame and embarrassment from your work environment. Encourage your team to take on challenging tasks without making them hesitant. If your team is fearful of making mistakes, they’ll most likely play it safe rather than explore and take chances with their work. Pushing the envelope without fear of failure is how breakthroughs are made and goals are accomplished!

2. Frame criticism as something positive. When you evaluate and criticise a team member’s work, let them know you’re simply showing them where they can improve and what they should focus on. When you frame your criticisms in a positive way, your team will trust and stick up for one another, as opposed to playing the “blame game” when a project starts to derail. Your team will learn to take full responsibility for both their triumphs and mistakes, because you’ve assured them that making mistakes is a part of learning.

How do you encourage your virtual team to embrace new challenges? Let us know in the comments below! We love hearing from you!

By : Amir Ahmed /May 05, 2014 /Blog, Motivating Your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More
  • ABOUT US

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.