I know the topic of virtual teams is very trendy and that there’s a lot of interest around it, but I did not feel the urge to write about it until I discovered that we now have access to technology that enhances collaboration and we don’t use this advantage. There are thousands of articles about how to manage team members who are scattered all over the world, how to motivate them, what are the main challenges, how to overcome them and so on.
My choice of topic is slightly different and was inspired by three things that happened during this last week. So, let me tell you more about the teams I’m part of and most importantly, why I love technology.
1. The context: 1 project, 3 team members (Singapore, US and Romania), 2 clients in UK and Geneva, 1 team advisor in Bulgaria. We worked for a few months on the project, everything went great, got positive feedback and the team thought it would be a nice gesture to say Thank You to our advisor. But how to do it, when we all were in 4 different countries (and 3 very different time zones)? One of my colleagues had the idea of sending flowers to her. And we did it; it took us more to decide on what flowers to choose than to order and send them out. Our tools? Internet, Paypal, e-banking and a bit of creativity.
Our advisor not only loved the flowers and the gesture, but she sent us back a short video saying thank you to us. It was awesome to get to see her reaction and excitement. One of the best feelings ever.
2. A few days ago there was a face-to-face meeting with my team in the US. They all travelled to one location, but unfortunately I couldn’t. One important detail: it was the first face2face in one location with everyone and I am new to the team. I needn’t stress the importance of being there and participating. But, with some creativity and a bit of technology, we managed it. Being in a virtual classroom with video cameras for each of us was kind of fun, but more importantly, it was really engaging. We laughed, got to know each other and really communicated; overall it was a great experience and this is the way virtual teams should work together, using all available resources they have. A conference call could not be compared to this; these two options are different as night and day. I know it’s easy, obvious and fun to do, but how often does this happen?
3. The simplest thing you can do is to show that you care. When I got a video with one of my colleagues based in Asia singing Happy Birthday to me, it was so unexpected and thoughtful that I almost cried. It’s so easy to do this, to record yourself with your phone and then to send an e-mail, that it’s an obvious thing to do. But how often do we do this?
I did not mention Skype that was my best friend during my husband’s international assignments and travels, Facetime, Viber, Facebook or Twitter… These are tools that we use almost on an every day basis.
I don’t want to boil the ocean and say you should use all tools that you have at your disposal. It’s unnecessary and confusing. But you can focus, be creative and offer a great experience to your colleagues and teams, even if you are all over the world.
*Picture: Virtual Chaos, by Diego Bellorin