I have often said that managing geographically dispersed (or virtual) teams is harder than managing face-to-face (F2F) teams – but I really didn’t know WHY. Now I know.
Author Nick Morgan in his latest book, “Can You Hear Me: How to Connect with People in the Virtual World” describes the challenges of virtual communication:
- The lack of feedback and the greater potential for misunderstanding
- The lack of empathy and ability to convey emotional intent
- The lack of control of what gets published about you in the online world
- The lack of (and fragility of) emotional connections
- The lack of connection and commitment
Frankly, they all blend together and at several points, Morgan repeats himself. But those key messages are so vital to understanding precisely HOW to communicate better in the virtual world, that I really didn’t mind it too much!
Here are some key takeaways for me, personally, as I continue to work with teams all across North America:
- It’s okay to use emoticons to convey emotional intent in the business world!
- Be clear in your own mind on what you intend, what you expect, and what you require from your virtual interactions.
- Periodically check in with your teammates – at the beginning, during, and at end of the meeting to state their emotional reaction to the outcomes of the discussion. [Yes, this will start off being awkward, but gets easier over time!]
- Periodically Google yourself to see what new teammates might be learning about you
- The best way to establish online relationships is to begin in the real world. Make every possible effort to meet F2F. Morgan says, “This simple (and potentially expensive) technique can save enormous amounts of money and time down the project road, in efficiency and cooperation.
- and I could go on and on and on…..
The second half of the book is packed with specific techniques for the different digital channels:
- Email and texting
- Conference calls
- Chat session (video conferencing)
- And a chapter devoted to sales – since sales calls are more virtual than ever!
So here’s what I would do with a new virtual team: Have them read this book and then talk about how they want to communicate in the virtual world. And it’s best to do that F2F during the initial kick off meeting! 🙂
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.