The audiobook for ‘How to work from home better’ is available on Audible and iTunes. You can hear a sample of the audiobook here, and the text featured in this particular segment can also be found below.
Communicating as part of a team
So we have covered some things about how you, as an individual, can communicate more effectively in a virtual environment. Now let’s look at how to interact and collaborate effectively as a part of a virtual team.
What defines a ‘team’ in a virtual context?
You are collaborating with others that you may not know well, and perhaps you only see sometimes, or possibly may have never met. This idea of being a ‘team’ with people that we have no personal relationship with is quite challenging for some of us. So let’s look at this.
Our idea of a ‘team’ is quite often rather simplistic and is often biased towards having a good personal relationship. George Ball; a US Undersecretary of State in JFK’s and LBJ’s administrations famously said: ‘Nothing propinks like propinquity.’ By this he meant that nothing fosters a close relationship better than close proximity. Ball popularised this general theme in politics and went on to expand on this idea with what eventually came to be known as the ‘Ball Rule of Power’ which states that: ‘The more direct access you have to the President, the greater your power, no matter what your title actually is.’ This is consistent with much of our own thinking about how a team operates. The idea of our removing ourselves from that inner circle and distancing ourselves from the leader (the President) is going against our deeply engrained set of beliefs, but that is the direction that the virtual workplace is taking us and so we need to look to refine our definition of a team, and in particular look at what makes a successful team in this context.
There are many different types of teams but the successful teams are always the ones that recognise a common goal and work towards it together. We see this all the time in sport where, team mates may not necessarily get along personally or even speak the same language, yet they collaborate effectively to work towards their collective objective. We may like to see the team all celebrating their success together and map our own feelings of friendship and camaraderie on to it, but it is the common goal that bonds the team together as opposed to any personal sentiment between individuals.
We do the same with our favourite music bands. We like the idea of them all being great friends and hanging out together after the show. However, this is often not the case and music bands are traditionally made up of very different (and often conflicting) personalities. But they collaborate effectively as a successful team to bring their songs together. That is their shared common goal and that is what creates the bond and the strength in their teamwork.
Over the years I have had many positive relationships with virtual team mates that I have never actually met. It cannot be said that I know them personally as we have not met in person and I know little about their personal lives, but I would consider them to be very good and healthy relationships in the context of the basis that they were formed on. What is this basis? Well, basically to work well together. We have done this very successfully and as a result have formed a mutual appreciation and positive association with one another. Sporting team mates and fellow band members often develop similar positive associations with one another but this relationship is brought about by collaborating effectively and enjoying the resulting success together.
For full-time home based workers the removal of the personal interactions of your former workplace may be missed more by some than others, but it is something that you will need to accept. You will not be in the same physical place as the team mates that will be working alongside you in your work from home initiative (or home based business) and so your interactions with colleagues will, by nature, be less personal. This doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing and by understanding and working towards a common goal of success you will be forming very positive working relationships. If you do miss that personal interaction then it is probably something that you should look to replace or supplement in other areas of your life.
From ‘How to work from home better’, by Aarron Dann Copyright © 2020