Are you talking too much “business” with your virtual work team?

If your work involves a computer and regular interaction with others, via the web, consider yourself part of a virtual team, whether you formally call it that, or not.

And, in your interactions with your “virtual team”, is it all business, or are some of your conversations of a personal nature?

A recent study by Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications), on The habits of successful virtual teams, identified the amount of personal (non-business) conversation as the #1 predictor of a highly successful virtual team.  Here’s their chart:

Personal - non-business - work

The Unify study found that, “those on very successful (virtual) teams are more personable in their habits.  71% of them engage in personal/ non-business conversation with colleagues daily or weekly,  compared to just 42% of those on less successful teams. A stunning 38% of those on less successful teams say they rarely or never have personal conversations with virtual team members, either as part of a scheduled meeting or as an ad hoc call. Successful teams carried on with this habit regardless of how many team members were remote…”

Get more personal in your virtual work

Often, I find myself working as part of a virtual team and/or in a virtual small group conversation.  It’s so easy to want to get right down to business.  I feel the pull.  So, do others.

Yet, I know its a shortcut.   Here’s a few ways (also touched on in the Unify study) to keep your eye on the relationship ball:

  • Actually take an interest in the people you’re working with (no-brainer); e.g., start each conference call or virtual meetings with  2 or 3 minutes of chit chat; e.g., “how are you, what are you up to…?”
  • If your teams are too big for a few minutes of chat, change your calls; ask, “are we here for a discussion (two-way conversation) or a briefing (one-way)?”, discussion works best in small groups (5 or 6 max)
  • Less is more; don’t try to do everything in scheduled meetings – have a smaller agenda, allow more time for discussion, for chat
  • Flip the meeting; what can you do asynchronously, ahead of time? – save the virtual meeting for true discussion, decisions, relationships, etc.
  • Schedule virtual coffee breaks; just like in-real-life – one-to-one, no agenda, schedule 15+ minutes… you’ll probably talk business, anyways

Realize virtual success flows through positive relationships

It’s the little things, the many seemingly mundane interactions that we have with each other on a regular basis, that add up, and make our relationship good (or not so good).

Get curious.  Ask them.  Most of us like to be considered, not to mention we like talking about ourselves.  Though maybe Canadians like talking a bit less about themselves than some?

With more positive interactions with each other, the stronger our relationship becomes.  And, we should feel good with that, knowing relationships are the foundation of successful collaboration,

How do you ensure time for the personal in your virtual meetings?

What other ways do you make room for the personal?

And, when you’re working with a slightly larger group, e.g., a Board of Directors of say 10 or more , how do you facilitate some personal conversation and/or connection time, or do you even try?


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