Guided Insights

Accelerate On-the-Job Learning With (Virtual) Peer Roundtables

If you’re like many of our clients and colleagues, you work some distance away from your key colleagues. This may mean that you rarely get the chance to brainstorm ideas, share lessons learned, or explore difficult issues with your peers. With technology as an enabler, virtual roundtables can be an effective way to exchange ideas …

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Building Relationships, One Conversation at a Time

Can you build a trusting relationship when you’ve never had an actual conversation? (And no, IM, email, text, Twitter and blog “conversations” don’t count!) While it may be possible, it’s pretty unlikely. Most business conversations tend to focus on tasks and priorities, whether to review the progress of a current project, delegate actions or make …

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Proven in Practice – Top Tips Essential to Virtual Project Team Performance

I’m always gratified when readers write to say that the latest Communiqué really hit the mark. One reader, a colleague and former client of mine, has sent me so many such mails over the last 10 years that I arranged to meet with him – virtually – to learn which tips he found the most …

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Magic Numbers for Successful Teamwork

People often ask me: What’s the ideal number of people to have on any given team to produce the best results? My answer: It depends. Several factors go into coming up with that magic number, such as: Clarity of goals and objectives, time available to get it right, ability of participants to work face-to-face versus …

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Guidelines for Great Global Team Meetings

Thanks to advances in technology, project team members scattered around multiple time zones work together as a matter of routine. However, without a keen understanding of important cultural differences that are most likely to affect collaboration, many virtual global project teams struggle to achieve their goals, or sometimes simply fall apart. In this edition of …

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Seven Attributes of an Exceptional Virtual Collaborator

Just because someone works virtually doesn’t mean that person really has what it takes to collaborate successfully. In fact, many who work remotely are poorly suited to make the connections they really need to thrive. In this edition of Communiqué, we look at characteristics that make for a successful virtual collaborator, and those that may …

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Holding Back: A Counter-Intuitive Approach for Virtual Leaders

When they first join a new team, members tend to be energized, motivated, and eager to learn the ropes. Many take pride in finding the information and resources they need to tackle their new assignments and may need just a bit of guidance to keep moving in the right direction. After all, absorbing and applying …

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Real Cultural Assimilation Takes Patience, Time and Willingness to Adapt

A colleague recently landed a job for Export Trading Co. LTD, an agro processing company in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with offices throughout Sub Saharan Africa. I wondered: Is it any easier to become assimilated into a new culture today than it was for me when I took a temporary assignment in Hong Kong two …

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Leading vs. Managing Remote Teams

As more organizations work virtually, managers of traditional work teams are tapped to lead geographically dispersed teams. When thrust into this unfamiliar territory, many managers flounder, especially those who rely on command-and-control tactics to get work done across locations, functions, cultures and time zones. Joining me in writing this month’s Communiqué is my friend and …

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Moving to the Virtual Classroom: 8 Steps to Keep Learners Engaged

As our workforce becomes more scattered, organizations are being forced to rethink how they deliver training. While the array of solutions may vary, one trait these organizations have in common: They are scaling back or altogether eliminating classroom training in favor of distance learning. Most don’t have the experience or tools to make this move …

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Navigating Through Invisible Cultural Tripwires

It can be really awkward to candidly discuss cultural differences when your colleagues work across the hall. But when colleagues work across the continent or on the other side of the world, these conversations becomes exponentially harder. Yet, by missing the opportunity to openly explore how cultural differences affect its ability to collaborate, a team …

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To speed decision-making, get rid of the noise

To be, or not to be? Not all decisions are as profound as Hamlet’s, but some team decisions can be real game-changers. Making tough decisions can stress out members of any team, but when you’re working as a geographically-dispersed team, the decision-making process can be especially draining. Why?  Simply put, the decision-making process for virtual …

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Dealing with Disruptive Participants, Virtually

We’ve all suffered when the bad behavior of just one person can derail a whole meeting. Maybe it’s been the know-it-all who steamrolls over anyone who tries to speak. Or the person who folds her arms and rolls her eyes without a word. It could be the guy who has nothing good to say about …

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Designing a Distraction-Proof Virtual Meeting

We try to pay more attention during virtual meetings. We really do! But then something diverts our attention (it doesn’t take much!) and we find ourselves tuning out, despite our best intentions. It could be that a teammate just IM’d us with an urgent SOS for help. Or that our workload is too crushing to …

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Building Trust Within Virtual Teams – Small Steps Add Up

When we ask clients to name the toughest challenge associated with leading virtual teams, there is one answer that always pops to the top of the list: Building trust. Or in some cases, it’s re-building trust. Building trust is hard for any team, but it is especially hard for virtual teams, whose members have few …

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For High Impact Global Communications, One Size Never Fits All

You’re poised to launch a Big Change that will rock the world of everyone across your organization, around the world. You’ve spent weeks with C-level execs, Marketing, HR and Legal to hammer out a set of crisp, consistent messages. After weeks of haggling, everyone has finally signed off. At last, you have sent the key …

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Overcoming Time and Distance to Stay Connected, Engaged and Energized

In a world where what was blindly fast is now excruciatingly slow, what was private is now all-too-public, and where meaningful discussions have given way to a stream of 280-character exchanges, a feeling of disconnection has become rampant across the workplace. Despite the proliferation of devices that tether us to others at any time, from …

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Virtual Meetings: Design for Worst-Case Scenarios for Best Outcomes

Normally, I ascribe to the 80/20 rule when it comes to planning meetings or designing training. That is, I know I can’t possibly predict every single situation that might arise, so I do my best to anticipate what I think will happen 80% of the time for 80% of the participants. As far as the …

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Successful Virtual Collaboration Takes a Lot More Than Just the Right Tools

Your organization has finally gotten wise to the fact that employees need more than just email, a smart phone and a group website to work with their colleagues across the world, or even just down the hall. IT has just unveiled an array of exciting new collaboration tools with great fanfare, complete with training and …

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How to Tilt the Work-Life Balance in your Favor in a 24×7 World

Is achieving “work-life balance” really possible in an always-on, constantly connected world? When telecommuting and flextime were introduced, the thinking was that busy professionals could adjust their working hours to accommodate other important aspects of their lives. (“It’s great – I can coach my kids’ soccer games and then hop onto my late-night con calls.”) …

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10 Easy Ways to Disengage Your Virtual Team

I’m in the midst of rolling out a new virtual leadership series for a client. We start every series by exploring the three building blocks of successful virtual team leadership (literally, the ABC’s): Accelerating Trust, Building Social Capital and Creating a Level Playing Field. One major challenge comes up in every conversation: How to keep …

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6 Essential Guidelines for Making Better Decisions, Virtually

Let’s face it. We’ve all made some pretty poor decisions. Sometimes it’s because we feel we have to keep moving, in any direction. Other times we just don’t want to have to think too hard, so we make the choice that requires the least scrutiny. When we make a bad decision that has fairly minor …

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How Virtual Leaders Can Help Others Thrive in a World of Complexity

Consider this: Today’s companies set themselves up to six times more performance metrics than they did 50 years ago. Top leaders committed to just four to seven performance imperatives; today, CEOs commit to somewhere between 25 and 40. According to Yves Morieux of the Boston Consulting Group, author of a recent Harvard Business Review article, …

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Balance Innovation and Expediency for a Supercharged Team

How many emails can I write while “participating” in a weekly review meeting? Which ideas can I repurpose so I don’t have think of new ones? How many calls can I avoid by blasting a group IM? How many minutes can I save by outsourcing dinner prep to the local pizza joint? Yup, for many …

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Untangle your Virtual Team with 10 Most-Needed Norms

Precious few virtual teams have explicit team norms, even for aspects of teamwork where the absence of shared norms can really trip a team up. Excuses include: “When would we have time to talk this through?” “Everyone pretty much knows how we need to work.” “We’re too busy.” And my favorite: “It’s too late to …

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Rewarding, Recognizing and Celebrating Achievements from Afar

How do you celebrate a major milestone? Maybe you call the troops together to share a pizza, or bring in a jug of coffee and a platter of decadent donuts. Better yet, you might treat your hard-working team to lunch or dinner. And if it’s a moment worthy of a special celebration, you might throw …

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You’d Be a Great (Virtual) Communicator If Only You Could Just Be Quiet

Quick: What’s the #1 skill successful virtual leaders must have, which is usually hardest for them to cultivate? If you said “listening,” you’d be right. Why it’s so important is pretty obvious. Virtual leaders must learn to listen for and interpret an enormous amount of information, within seconds, without benefit of body language or eye …

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From Bland and Boring to Captivating and Compelling

  Even the most experienced team leaders can make us weep with boredom. They torture us with their monotone narrations of 10-Mb slide decks. They regale us with irrelevant minutiae, while sidestepping the really important stuff. Their meetings are more like monologues, with everyone else listening from the sidelines. And for the most part, they …

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When Workloads Are Seriously Out of Whack – 11 Leadership Tips

Say you’re the leader of a team of hard-working professionals who work in different locations. It’s crunch time, and pretty much everyone realizes they need to put aside their personal lives for the next few days (or maybe a tad longer) to meet a critical deadline. Trouble is, you discover that while some people are …

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Who Moved My (Virtual) Water Cooler?

When’s the last time you bumped into a colleague unexpectedly in the hallway and after a brief chat, came away with a brilliant solution to a problem that’s been vexing you for weeks? If you’re part of a virtual team, it’s probably been awhile. Even in the largest global organizations, few virtual teams have regular …

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