Now Re-think About How Your Team Did This Past Year
- What went well for you in 2016?
- What do you need more of in 2017?
- What do you need less of in 2017?
- What can I do to support your growth and development?
Now Re-think About How Your Team Did This Past Year
Often, the management skills that will make you a great leader in virtual teams are the same life skills that will help you navigate life in general. Today, we’re going to talk about a concept that might help you navigate your personal development inside and outside of your virtual team.
We don’t always get along with our friends, family, and colleagues: it’s a fact of life but because of the importance of social interaction in virtual teams, virtual team leaders need a set of strategies for dealing with conflict and negative emotions before they get out of hand.
Think about the last time you found yourself annoyed by a member of your team: maybe a colleague has been giving you a hard time, maybe they have a quirk that irritates you, maybe they stress you out.
But consider this: the behavior that other people exhibit that you find annoying are also present in you. In fact, the reason that you find them so annoying is because you’ve spent so much time working to suppress those qualities in you.
This concept, known as the “Shadow Self” was first articulated in the West by psychologist Carl Jung.
To simplify, Jung believed that there were two elements to human beings:
When we get annoyed at other people’s behavior, we are in fact reacting to our own supressed behavior that we don’t like.
The problem here is that supressing our feelings is seldom helpful. In fact, it can lead to damaging effects on your mind and body, and our relationships with others.
Instead of dealing with anger and annoyance by repressing our feelings, or lashing out at others, we can use our feelings to make ourselves more whole, genuine, and present..
Let’s give an example for how this might work:
Let’s imagine that you have a colleague who interrupts other people during virtual meetings. It drives you up the wall. Instead of suppressing your feelings, or lashing out at them, you can ask yourself: is this behavior something that exists within me?
When we search our annoyances for things we dislike about ourselves, we engage our shadow selves. By engaging our shadow selves, we gain greater awareness of who we are, and greater awareness that other people are not so different from us. That awareness will allow us to react with compassion instead of frustration.
The solution isn’t to push or change aspects of our shadow selves away from our behavior, but to acknowledge and embrace their presence.
The next time you find yourself annoyed at a team member, search your memories, your feelings, and your own self-knowledge. Are you annoyed because of something that you have been suppressing? Acknowledge your feelings of annoyance, but then move past them to realize your similarity to your team, and your own true self.
How does presence connect with authenticity in a virtual workspace? For the past few weeks, we’ve discussed presence in virtual teams. Today, we’re going to expand on that theme, and link it to a concept that is key to trust in virtual team environments: authenticity.
Since childhood, you’ve heard the advice to “be yourself”. There’s a reason everyone kept telling you this: to be yourself is to be authentic, and authenticity is the key to successful social interactions, meaningful relationships, and a generally happy life.
Authenticity is being aware of one’s core values, skills, and attributes, and behaving accordingly. In virtual teams, acting as our authentic selves enables our team members to perceive us as trustworthy. And, as we’ve detailed before, trust ultimately leads to increased team engagement and productivity.
“Being yourself” sounds like the most natural thing in the world to do, but it’s actually quite difficult.
In fact, it’s quite rare to be attuned to who you really are: every day, we manage personal and professional commitments, maintain a cornucopia of relationships, and absorb countless voices, images, and opinions broadcast to us by mass media. This sheer volume of relationships, information, and motivations can prevent us from taking a moment to discover our authentic selves.
However, discovering our authentic selves is key to managing our lives better—especially in the workplace.
The Harvard Business Review wrote an article a few years ago on the topic. In the article, the authors searched for characteristics of strong leaders across different sectors. Their research revealed that what made great leaders great wasn’t a laundry list of specific qualities. Instead, great leaders know who they are, and lead from there.
Okay, we’ve covered why authenticity is important. But if authenticity is being aware of one’s core values and acting accordingly, how do we discover that core? The key is self-awareness.
Authenticity is built on self-awareness. We become self-aware when we accept every part of ourselves:
Self-awareness can be most effectively achieved when we take a moment, or a few, for ourselves. It can be difficult to find time to self-reflect in the middle of our daily schedules, when we are the midst of contributing to business on a daily basis.
It can also be easy to become caught in the motions at work; you might be unconsciously performing a particular task in the same way, possibly due to the force of habit or because the pace of your business compels you to be efficient. However, it is worthwhile to create an opportunity for yourself to pause and objectively observe “you” in pursuit of self-awareness.
How does one create this opportunity?
In our next article, we’ll talk about just that: we’ll go over the ways to find time for self-reflection, and some questions to ask yourself to begin your self-evaluation.
Stronger leadership, easier relationship-management, and a more engaged and productive team can all start with you, which is why the next few weeks are all about you, and finding out who that really is.
In what ways do you establish trust with your virtual team and show your true self to them?
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.
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:
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:
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual teams are widely regarded as high in interaction, high in content, low in emotion. In fact, these are some of reasons they are often credited as being so effective. Seventy percent of CIO’s rate their virtual teams as very important. Yet, only 53 percent of CIO’s claim they are maintaining good relationships within their teams. (Cornell University study, 2010) And, sadly, only 18 percent of their dispersed team members feel their bosses cared about their feelings. Surprise, the truth often hurts. (R. Pastore, 2008)
The role of emotions at work is one of the most popular topics for doctoral research in business management. (Forbes, 2012) There is no doctorate needed to know that happy employees equal productive employees. Odds are that if you are reading this, you are “the boss,” the team leader, the manager, the CIO. So here is a reality check: are you happy almost constantly at work? No? Ok, but top leaders and CIO’s still must help ensure better relationships and greater happiness in their virtual teams.
Are virtual teams really so different emotionally?
When asked, a CIO with eighty-three dispersed teams said of emotions and relationships in the workplace, “I never really thought of it as important.” Amazing. Remember, 82 percent of virtual team members did not think their bosses cared about happiness and emotions. And 86 percent of these dissatisfied virtual employees said they plan to look for a new position. (DaVinci, 2012) Not important?
A high performing distance manager at MetLife states that 80 percent of his job is relationship management and 20 percent is task management. This percentage is quite normal and routine to managers and leaders in other areas and in other companies. Why is this trait so amazing in a virtual team manager that it is noteworthy enough to be included in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report?
Be skillful enough to recognize this divergence. “Companies aren’t all that worried about the feelings of their staff. Yes, they’ve seen the dire predictions of exodus maximus when (if) the economy turns around. But they figure they’ll burn that bridge when they come to it.” (Devaney and Stein, AllBusiness, 2014) Let that not be you.
Develop and follow consistent steps toward better working relationships among your teams and employees. Relationship development and emotional management are daily activities not reserved for the Human Resource department.
Virtual employees are not emotionally different. Virtual teams are not different. Take time to care.
Showing that you care at a distance:
The statistics on retention alone should already be enough to motivate any C-level executive, vice president, manager or supervisor. Do you care about your employees and your teams? Do you show that on a daily basis? If not, why not?
That being said, here are three core behaviors of many successful organizations and some small steps that may help VT leaders, managers and their CIO’s develop them.
1) Show you know
You hopefully already know the strengths of your teams and their members. Do they know you know? Did you say “Here’s the contact info for your next client.”? Or, did you say “You did great designing that website last week. We have a new client who seems pretty picky, and since your work is so detail-oriented, I think you’re the best for this job.”
Get to know your employees’ and teams personally. Make it a goal to do one to two minute “innerviews” with each of them over time. That means some one on one time, folks. “But, that’s not possible. I don’t have enough time” you say? ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini is renowned for knowing each of his employees’ names. He has hundreds. How many do you have? How many employees’ do you take the time to authentically connect with? If you don’t you may have to ask yourself do you have time to replace and retrain?
2) Show you care
Knowing isn’t enough. And it is here where most leaders can fail. You have to care. Caring cannot be created, faked, or falsified. So. What do you do? There are no “action steps” to caring. You have to use what’s right for you, or it will feel contrived. However, here is one example of what taking the time to care looks like in action and feels like to a team member.
You talk, email, IM or text with your team members often. When doing so, keep your contacts list open. Use the notes section for its designed purpose: your team member’s information. Say that Supervisor Steve talks about his family occasionally. As you chat with him the next few times, ask and learn more about them. Take some notes, like their names: his wife Jane and his boys Bobby and Danny. Oh, by the way, Bobby’s the one who plays trombone and is going off to college on a music scholarship in the fall.
Nine months later, you are talking to Steve again. So, how is Bobby doing, anyway? Did you remember to check? Did you care enough to actually ask? How amazed will Steve be when you do ask? This is just one small, tiny example. Picture more of these types of moments, where you truly connect, as you make them part of your normal workweek. Take small actions that create those moments. Don’t allow your virtual team employees to be a faceless strangers.
Caring is where compassion and action intersect. Find that spot.
3) Leave a clear and positive impression
What kind of impression does Steve have of you nine months later? In every contact you have, there should be a clear impression in the team members’ minds that you support them individually and as a group. Again, creating positive impressions in the workplace is the topic of many books and in no way can it be conveyed completely here. You have to find your own path. But, here is one small thought to ponder.
If someone walks up to you and tells you what they want and need and then stops, turns and walks away, what is your impression of them? Not very positive, is it? No chance for communication. No chance to ask questions, assuming you’d even want to.
You know where this is going. What do your emails look like? Your IM’s? Your texts? One blog article recently mentioned how little things don’t just mean a lot. Little things mean everything. It listed a common IM scenario.
Steve Smith: Did you have any comments on the report I sent you last week?
Steve Smith: Did you have any comments on the report I sent you last week?
You: No. 🙂
From the first IM, Steve could easily assume that you are indifferent to his work and do not care. The smiley, however, communicates satisfaction. If you’re Steve, which IM would you rather get? J Which one shows a lack of compassion in action? L
You can’t fake it
Making a team productive and happy is essential. Those in charge of virtual teams, from team leaders, to middle managers, to CIO’s all face the same challenges as any leader in any business. Virtual teams are not different emotionally. People are people. They want what they do to mean something. They want to be happy about it. And it’s your job to provide that.
Google “employee happiness.” What you’ll see is link after link of what are, most often, actually employee motivation topics. Motivation could be anything from a verbal tongue lashing to a trip to Vegas. None of which involve caring. That’s too bad, because that is precisely what employees say they want, and are not getting. Take steps to correct this; baby steps if needed, but begin immediately and keep moving forward.
Get to know your team personally, show compassion and interest in them, and make sure you are clear in communications and impressions, to maintain what you’ve worked to achieve. Little things mean everything. Over time, take more small steps, more small actions.
Remember, caring is where compassion and action intersect.
Tell us how you build that true connection with your team. We want to know.
If you’ve worked in a virtual team for a while, you might have noticed that the lack of intimate, face-to-face social engagement can make some days draining and dull. You might have gone a few weeks without anybody really noticing and encouraging the important work you’ve done, and this can feel deflating.
You’re not self-absorbed for feeling this way! Humans are social animals; we need social engagement to fill us up and make us feel connected. And if we’re not exchanging constructive feedback with others at work, our general sense of optimism and even our overall health can decline.
On the surface this may not seem like something to worry about. Oh, but let us reassure you, it is! By letting negative thoughts overwhelm you, over time they can wear you down with stress, pollute your thinking with cynicism and pessimism, and ultimately inject the same destructive attitude into other team members. The last thing you want to be is the “energy drain” on your team, right?
In our book, Follow My Voice, we have a section called “Building Resilience”, where we look at ways to spawn more positivity and heartiness on your team.
In particular, today’s article will expand on a few of the book’s suggestions, so that you can overturn these forces of negativity into a more positive, resilient attitude towards your work and life. You might find the following three tips helpful for learning to be more optimistic.
1. You can learn to be more optimistic. As authors Claire Sookman and Amir Ahmed write in Follow My Voice, “Being positive isn’t a condition. It’s a skill. And, like all skills, positivity can be learned.”
We wrote an article touching on this subject last week called How to Encourage Your Virtual Team to Embrace Challenges. We talked about how you can shed your ‘fixed’ mindset and adopt a ‘growth’ mindset to help you more courageously and optimistically face challenges in work. But learning to be more optimistic is about adjusting the way you perceive positive events as well.
When you complete an assignment or project, are you crediting yourself for the hard work and dedication you put forth? Don’t brush off your achievements nonchalantly; encourage and reward yourself for jobs well done. Recognize the strengths and assets you bring to the team—they are important so don’t ignore them.
2. Use reciprocity. We’ve all heard the old adage, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” But those timeless words are true. People will respond positively to you if you interact positively with them. If you’re a grouch, always picking out the negative aspects in a project, then your team will loathe being in your presence and will hold back from encouraging you. Your colleagues’ lack of support and encouragement will only worsen your feeling of well being and optimism. So it’s best to be positive towards others, so that they feel it’s ‘okay’ to be upbeat and cheerful towards you.
3. Don’t take anything for granted. This is a point we discuss in Follow My Voice. Appreciating your team’s output is crucial to nourishing a sense of optimism within the group. People will want to do good things because you reward and encourage good contributions. There will be a stimulating and cheerful atmosphere surrounding your team.
“When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to a team member who completed their task well?” write Sookman and Ahmed. “Demonstrating appreciation will show team members their work is meaningful. Showing gratitude goes both ways, and will also make the giver feel better.”
We hope you found these three tips helpful for developing a positive attitude within your virtual team. However, this is not an exhaustive list. For even more ways to build team resiliency, check out our book Follow My Voice.
How do you build positivity within your team? We’d love you to add to this list in the comments below. We love hearing from you!
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