Ready for a Reset in Virtual Work? #2

In this Issue: Ready for a reset in your virtual work? Issue #2 in this series focuses on the second of three factors - Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively. (Think meetings and other collective work processes.)


Introduction

In the first issue of this series, I introduced three factors to consider for effective virtual work. When the three are balanced appropriately for your work context, you are not overemphasizing one at the risk of losing the value of the other factors.

  1. Preserve Energy and Focus

  2. Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively

  3. Prioritize Relationships

The first issue can be found at https://www.blueheronassociates.com/blog-1. The links (for Meeting Check-In Questions and a brief on Boundaries) have been corrected in the issue and are also provided below under Resources. In this issue on Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively, we'll see how a fresh look at meetings and other collective work processes can reveal opportunities to Preserve Energy and Focus and Prioritize Relationships, ways to engage people for creativity and decision-making, and resources to support your success.


Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively

When we Coordinate with others (i.e. sharing information so that each party can accomplish their part of a mutual objective), we can each work independently and then share our work, as in a relay. This provides great opportunity to Preserve Energy and Focus and supports the thinking preferences of people who do their best work alone first. When we Collaborate (i.e. working together to create something in support of a shared objective) it is best to bring people together in the same time and space such as a meeting or a call. A fresh look at how we collaborate in meetings and other ways, seems to be the place to look for increased opportunity to get the work done effectively in a way that also Preserves Energy and Focus. Early on, the default mode for accomplishing work together was Zoom meetings (or its equivalent) with all. That was probably useful in a new way of working and significant uncertainty but has likely outlived its usefulness. Practices to Assess and Reset Meetings:

  • How effective are your current meetings for achieving your shared purpose? See https://www.blueheronassociates.com/resources for the resources noted below.

  • The Meeting Portfolio Assessment enables you to view your full set of meetings at a glance and discover opportunities.

  • The Meeting Check-Ups includes queries on your use of pre- and post- meeting time that can open possibilities to increase the effectiveness and decrease time IN your meetings.

  • Meetings-Possible Types and Tempo may lead to insights also.

  • Is a video call always preferred or will an audio call work? Varying the communication mode can help to Preserve Energy.

Engaging for Creativity and Decision-Making


Engaging people for creativity and decision-making may seem more challenging in a virtual work environment. The research appears mixed in at least two areas relevant to the perceived challenges: 1) whether virtual communication inhibits or enables collective creativity and decision-making[1] and 2) whether creative idea generation is best done individually or collectively. Researchers at Stanford[2] believe that both individual and collective time is needed but knowing when and how to use them is important to get the best outcome from these processes.


When you are engaging others it is more effective when the participants: represent a diversity of perspectives, have a sense of psychological safety and trust that enables them to share openly; and have the ability to share different ideas in a way that prevents ‘groupthink’ and increases commitment (i.e. healthy conflict), while preventing relationship conflict.


Involving others is important to generate new ideas, help people feel a part of the whole, and be a part of the solution. Mindset matters and growth (vs. fixed), curiosity (vs. judgment) and possibility (vs. hopeless) mindsets[3] are more conducive to creativity.


While including people in decision-making can have benefits, leaders need to weigh the benefits with the cost of limited time and energy that could be used elsewhere. In addition, when asking others for input in decision-making be clear on 1) how the input will be used and 2) who is making the decision. When people don’t have clarity, they may leave a meeting thinking the last stage of the discussion was the final decision and then be surprised when they find out later that is different.


Practices for Engaging Others for Creativity and Decisions

  • Match the parts of the process to the most appropriate work mode (e.g. individual, coordinated (relay), collaborative (all together) and communication modes.

  • Maximize use of asynchronous (different time, same place) communication tools to limit the potential negative impacts of group dynamics and to preserve energy and focus.

  • Consider a range of alternatives to traditional brainstorming[5] e.g. brainwriting, braindrawing .

  • Expand your consideration of who will provide the expertise you need for the objective and invite them, since location is no longer a qualifier.

  • In collaborative time, when you come together after people have generated ideas for creativity or decisions, focus more on points of difference than consensus to maximize learning in the team.[4]

  • Connect things that flex the creative muscle with other practices e.g. creative games in virtual water-cooler. (More on this in Issue 3.)


Resources

Revised links from Issue #1: https://www.blueheronassociates.com/resources

  • Meeting Check-In Questions

  • Boundaries: Achieving Results Without Losing Yourself

Other Resources:

  • Leader’s Toolkit for Building Psychological Safety, see Amy Edmonson et al, https://www.strategy-business.com/article/How-Fearless-Organizations-Succeed?gko=63131

  • Leadership Behaviors that Nurture Collaboration: Trust-Building, Purpose-Instilling, and Energy-Generating, see Amy Edmonson et al, https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/a-noble-purpose-alone-wont-transform-your-company/


Footnotes

[1] Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa and Dorothy E. Leidner, “Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams”, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 3, Issue 4, 1 June 1998

[2] https://dlibrary.stanford.edu/questions/who-produces-better-ideas-individuals-or-teams

[3] Carol Dweck, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success (New York, Ballantine Books, 2006); Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000).

[4] Jeff Garigliano, December 16, 2020, https://www.strategy-business.com/article/Stop-trusting-your-gut?gko=5d59f

[5] Stanford “Who produces better ideas individuals or teams”.


Stay Tuned and Keep in Touch


The next issue on the third design factor to balance, Prioritize Relationships, will be in your inbox within the next two weeks. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these ideas and how you put them into practice.



Curious? Want to explore more?

Book a complementary call at https://calendly.com/scheduletimewithcarol to explore any of the ideas in this newsletter series or how I might support your success in other areas. I work with leaders via individual coaching, small group learning communities, team development, work redesign, strategy, culture, and change. See what clients say and find resources at www.blueheronassociates.com.


Unleashing Organization's Potential for Resilience, Growth, and Effectiveness


Carol Gausz, Founder

cgausz@blueheronassociates.com blueheronassociates.com P.O. Box 288 Annapolis, MD 21404 (302) 388-5301


Copyright © 2021 Blue Heron Associates, Inc., All rights reserved.


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