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The Right Way to Converse With a Virtual Team

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In this series of posts about leading virtual and unconventional teams, I’ve suggested some important conversations you should facilitate across the distance.  That’s the “what.” Now, let’s talk about the “how.”

Truth is, we can’t talk about connection without addressing technology and its offerings and shortcomings. If you are providing team updates through email and conducting team meetings by phone, you’re behind the times. Web conferencing with video and screen sharing bridges the gap between distributed team members. It’s the closest thing you can get to meeting in-person, and it’s more productive than audio conferencing.

People connect better with each other when they see each other, and the more our virtually-working world becomes the norm, the more we crave quality, face-to-face connection and communication — the kind of meaningful, personal interactions we’ve talked about in this series of posts. The kind that brings teams closer together. The good news is, we now have the tools to create that closeness, even from a distance. If you’re serious about leading teams, you need to consider the technology you’re using to help you foster that connection efficiently.

And if you’re thinking that email is the easiest, most efficient conduit for communication, think again. According to CareerBuilder, 89 percent of American workers say email, text and voicemail actually get in the way of workplace relationships. Instead, you and your team will be better served to invest in a project management work platform where teammates can provide updates, track progress and collaborate with each other asynchronously. (How’s that for a buzzword?)

The right technology can help you accomplish more, so make sure you’re offering your team the tools (such as GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, and Skype) that keep them virtually connected.

Looking ahead into this post-Drucker, increasingly chaotic and simultaneously exciting world of work, not much is clear, except for this: No matter how much the world we live in and the technology we work with changes, no matter what unforeseen structures future teams will require, our success will ultimately be tied to the quality of our leadership.

My friends and mentors, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, said it beautifully in the 5th edition of their classic book, The Leadership Challenge:

“Change is the province of leaders. It is the work of leaders to inspire people to do things differently, to struggle against uncertain odds and to persevere toward a misty image of a better future. Without leadership there would not be the extraordinary efforts necessary to solve existing problems and realize unimagined opportunities. We have today, at best, only faint clues of what the future may hold, but we are confident that without leadership the possibilities will neither be envisioned nor attained.”

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