Resiliency in a Virtual Environment

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

Reliance on Technology in a Virtual Team

A few days ago, I was scheduled to present at a conference in San Diego. I was working in the lobby of a 5-star hotel, where the conference was being held. I was just finishing up some work when I got up, stretched, and had a one-minute conversation with a colleague just a few meters away from where I was sitting. When I returned to my seat, my laptop was gone.

Imagine if your office vanished one day: all your files, all your correspondences, all your projects and reports and presentations. Gone. No idea where it went, no idea who took it, no idea what could happen to all of the contents.

This—pretty much—happened to me.

There was a bellman to my right, and my colleagues to the left of where I was sitting. And, straight across from me was a man on his iPhone. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t even notice the theft.

My pulse was steadily beating harder and harder in my chest. I struggled to remain calm, and called security. They took me to look at the camera feeds for the lobby, and reran the footage from a few minutes ago.

On that screen, I saw a man with a thick beard, beaten clothes, and distinctive running shoes enter the lobby—he looked homeless. He had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, obscuring his face. The security officers remarked that the homeless tended to congregate in this area.

The feed continued. The man picked up my laptop, and ran out the door. Him, his blanket, and his running shoes disappeared off the screen.

I needed to get my laptop back.

The security guards said they’d look for the guy. Meanwhile, I had my own ideas. I ran out the door myself, determined to find the man who stole my laptop.

San Diego is home to over 1.3 million people. And, among those millions, there are over 10 000 homeless people. I stopped at every corner, asking any homeless people if they’d seen a man with a blanket wrapped around him. They said they knew who I was talking about, but that they hadn’t seen him today.

My life was on that computer. It was my connection to my work, and to my family. My presentations, invoices, and courses were all on that laptop. My family photos, emails, and social media were all on that laptop. You know the drill.

Three hours later, the hotel security called my room. They found the man sitting on the ground about four blocks away, still holding my computer. He gave the computer back to them, and was taken into custody. My life returned to normal.

In virtual work, we’re reliant on our machines. The technology we use to work is more than just a tool: it’s our gateway to our professional lives. I’ve shared this story today to give us all a reminder of the importance technology places in our lives today, and to encourage us all to be safer with how we treat these devices.

By : Amir Ahmed /March 24, 2015 /Blog, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

Are you ready to be the virtual leader or team member that you have the potential to be?

In our last post, we challenged you to assess how you show up, how you want to show up and how others think you show up to your virtual workspace. Because most of us all have blind spots to the attitude and awareness we bring to the table, it’s sometimes difficult to assess what our team members find challenging about the behaviours we show up with behind our screens or on the phone.

If you answered all the self-reflection questions fully and honestly, congratulations! If you didn’t get around to taking stock of how you show up, take a couple minutes and think about the following:

  • When I’m on a phone meeting and not face-to-face with others, am I actively participating in the conversation? Yes/No
  • Before responding to a team member who hasn’t been performing well, do I call and email him/her right away or do I step away from the situation to assess before responding? Take a moment here to think of a specific situation and spend a few moments reflecting before answering. Yes/No
  • I am easily distracted by my emails Yes/No Take some extra time here and reflect on how much time you spend checking personal emails and updates on social networks or other websites.
  • Do I respond with awareness in most situations? Yes/No Write down some virtual interactions (email, telephone, video conference) you’ve had in the last couple weeks and think about your level of awareness in each situation.
  • Do I generally react with my first thought, opinion or judgment? Yes/No
  • Do I take time each day for myself to do one healthy and stress relieving activity – meditation, yoga, and/or physical exercise? Yes/No

Would one of your team members agree or disagree with your answers? Copy and paste these questions into an email and ask someone on your team you trust if you have not done so already.

Perception vs. reality

We’d all like to think we’re giving our team members and projects we’re working on 100 per cent attention 100 per cent of the time, but that is neither realistic, nor attainable. Emotions, to-do lists, personal obligations, energy levels, etc. are constantly battling for our attention. However, by bringing a few mindful moments of awareness to each situation we can communicate in a less reactive and more influential way.

Think of it this way, when you’re driving a car there is always a blind spot. You know the blind spot is there, but what about those times you’re not consciously bringing your awareness to it. You check your mirror but you don’t shoulder check and wham, you might hit another car and crash.

The same thing happens in the virtual workplace. You’re half listening, thinking about what you need to get done later, checking your smartphone and only giving half of your focus to your project. Sooner or later, you’re team members start to pull back, maybe they quit responding to your requests in a timely manner, or maybe conflict and animosity start surfacing.

While you may think you’re doing everything right, you’re subconsciously letting others on your team down and conflict arises because you haven’t paid attention to the whole picture.

If you don’t know, how can you change?

Now that you have some basic levels of awareness on how you’re currently showing up, it’s time to paint an entire picture of the situation, not only your perception. Try sending your virtual team members a confidential survey to garner honest feedback with the following types of questions:

  • What behaviours am I exhibiting? For example:

o   Does it seem like I’m genuinely interested in what people on the call have to say?

o   Do I respond in a timely manner to emails and phone calls?

o   Do you feel that I’m listening when I respond to your phone calls?

o   How does my behaviour at work impact you and the team?

  • What would you like me to start doing that I have not been doing?
  • What would you like me to be stop doing that has been getting in the way of your productivity?
  • What would you like me to continue doing that has been helpful in your career growth?

Once you’ve collected this information from your team, what will you do with it?

Look again at the questions and determine the one that makes you most uncomfortable. Nine times out of 10 the one that gives you the most discomfort when you read it is the area you need to change the most. Now you will need to take action.Unless you take that first step and then the following ones, nothing will happen to help you reach your desired outcomes, no matter how clearly they’re defined.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or send us an email at



By : Claire Sookman /October 08, 2014 /Blog, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

    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.