Discovering a performance issue in a global team July 6, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Performance issues.
Tags: Diagnosing performance problems, global, global interaction, Global leadership, global team, global team member performance issue, leading global teams, Signs of remote performance issue
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The Big Dogz know that the biggest problem with managing performance of a remote worker is to identity that there is a performance problem. Time, culture and technology can mask the signs that a remote employee is having a performance problem. The effective global leader is aware of potential performance problem signals. What do you look for?
Here are some specific signals your global team member may send you:
- Does not respond to email or voice mail
- Does not make regular contact with you
- Deliverables are late, does not notify you
- Other members of your global team complain to you about the work products or delivery schedule
- Does not participate in team conference calls
- Misses status reports
- Tries to redirect the performance conversation
- Turns off the IM software
- Is absent unexpectedly
- Becomes defensive about questions
- Updates are unclear or poorly worded
- Claims computer systems problems keep from getting the work done
- Describes problems in email rather than a phone call
- Spending more time surfing the internet
- Tell you everything is going “great”
- Productivity is dropping
- They are excelling at mundane tasks — ignoring major project tasks
- They do not have awareness of project or company news
Observing these signs does not guarantee there is a performance problem. A general principle to follow is “Is there something unusual happening?” When you see behavior that is not normal, this is a good indicator that something is awry. If it is not a performance problem, then it is probably something you need to become involved with anyway.
The Big Dogz use these signs as guidelines — something to start investigating. As with all performance problems, you will first want to check the person’s ability to do the task assigned. Of course, the Big Dogz do that when they give a SMART objective; but if that assessment was incorrect, now is a good time to adjust. Use the performance feedback process to get the person’s action plan to bring performance back in line with your expectation. Include in your analysis, the workload, the priority in the team for this task and other factors that may affect the person’s ability to perform. Help the person to take action to fix these issues.
If the cause of the performance issue is not ability, then explore the willingness or motivational component of performance. They may have a confidence issue relative to the task. Perhaps you will have to increase your relationship activity with this person, such as encouraging them.
Responding to remote performance issues requires the use of the same techniques and approaches you would use with a co-located performance issue. Of course it will take more time, require the use of technology and adaptation to some cultural issues. The Big Dogz know that paying attention to the potential performance issue signs will pay off in the long run.
Building rapport in a global environment June 20, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Building rapport, Building trust, Communication, Global leadership, Knowing your people, Leading globally, Management, Networking.
Tags: build rapport, gathering topics about people, global culture, global rapport, global team, knowing people, Leading globally, remember facts about people
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Building rapport with global team member is a daunting task for most global team leaders. The Big Dogz know that using a structured approach and a consistent information capturing tool goes a long way toward helping you be effective at building rapport over the chasms of time and distance.
In building rapport, the first thing all effective leaders focus upon is the people. What do I want to know about my team members? What information would be useful for me to customize my approach and interactions with the team member? Actually, the techniques for building rapport over time and distance are no different from building rapport face to face.
Create a list of topics that would be useful for you.
Here are some work related examples:
What job experiences do they have?
What are their career objectives?
What is their preferred communication style?
How do they like to receive feedback?
What is their favorite (most and least) work assignment?
What are their strengths?
What skills would they like to acquire?
What is the anniversary of them joining the company or your team?
Here are some personal related examples:
What is their commute?
What hobbies do they have?
What pressures do they experience outside of work?
What is their family situation?
When is theiur birthday?
Who are the people they admire?
What is their favorite television show?
Do they like sports? What teams?
Another key set of information that may be useful in a global environment is cultural data such as:
Key historical events
National sports teams
You can develop your own list of information that would be helpful to you. Try to fill in the information for each item that would be useful for you.
Acquiring this information is an art form in itself! I am not suggesting you conduct an interrogation to discover the answers to these or other questions you may have about your team members. An effective technique to help you discover both work and personal related information is to first share something about yourself. To discover someone’s hobby, you might mention that you went on a hike this weekend and enjoy hiking. They may respond that hiking is not something they do, but they prefer cycling. Or, they may not respond at all. The key is to listen for information that can help you build rapport.
Once you have acquired information that is useful to you, I suggest you put that information into a file related to this person. Sales people use this technique when acquiring information about key clients. Standard contact management software like Outlook and BlackBerry have specific places where you can store this information. I am not well known for my ability to recall information about people, so for me, this technique is quite useful. Prior to making contact with people, I frequently review my information file to allow me to customize my approach to them.
The Big Dogz also know that people are interested in them. Think about what you would want your global team members to know about you. Prepare a short introduction presentation and deliver it to any new team members. Periodically review the salient points of your introduction at team meetings. Give people an opportunity to build rapport with you.
Focus on what information is important, capture that information and use it to customize your approach to building rapport with global team members.
Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
Tags: cultural awareness, cultural patterns, culture considerations, global culture, global interaction, Global leadership, global team leader
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When dealing with a global team, the Big Dogz know that one needs to take into account cultural differences to be effective. The Big Dogz have a checklist of key cultural patterns they analyze before trying to interact with global team members. Global team leaders who do not understand these patterns often find themselves confused, frustrated and behind schedule!
Here are the key patterns to investigate:
- Communication styles — how do people communicate in this culture? Are they more direct, more circumspect or more reliant upon non-verbal or tone cues? How soon can you expect a response to a question? What does silence mean? Is it appropriate to interrupt? What exactly does that English word mean in this culture? Non-verbal signals do not always mean the same thing in different cultures.
- Attitudes toward conflict — what is the accept method to deal with conflict? Do people raise issues when they disagree or do they behave in less assertive ways? The Big Dogz learn to recognize the cultural signs that there is a conflict.
- Getting things done — what is the pace? How do the people feel about milestones and reporting status? When someone says, “I will do that.” What does it mean? You may be surprised that it doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures!
- Decision-making — how do people expect you to make decisions? Does the leader make all the decisions? Can you expect people to contribute to the decision making process? When there is a decision to be made, will the person make it or wait for you to make the decision?
- Information disclosure — how open are people to sharing information, especially information about progress? In their culture, is it appropriate to share new knowledge with someone who is higher in the hierarchy? What if they find out some information that would help you divert a disaster; would they share it with you voluntarily?
- View of time — is it appropriate to arrive late for meetings or telephone conference calls? How long is the workday? What parts of the workday are not really for work?
- Humor — what is funny in this culture? Why don’t my jokes work? Is my view of something funny offensive to them?
If this seems like a lot to figure out, do not fear. There is an excellent resource to help you sort through all the cultural differences.
Try http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for insights on how to do business in many different cultures.
Communication tools for the Global Team Leader June 3, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Team basics, Uncategorized.
Tags: communication tools, Global communication, global communication tools, global team leader tools, tools for the global team leader
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The Big Dogz not only employ the most effective communication technology, they also use special techniques to facilitate the exchange of information.
One of the most perplexing problems faced by the global leader is what time of the 24 hour day do we have meetings or just interact with each other? An answer is the availability map.
This tool is used to describe your availability situation visually. Sometimes seeing the situation visually can help give insights to how best to solve your problem. First you get a copy of the world time zone map. I have attached one for your use.
First find your location on the map and draw a straight line representing your normal work day, usually 8 hours. The line starts in your time zone and goes west for 8 time zones. Next find the locations of your global team members and draw a line for each of them. Use the start of their time zone as the start of the day. When you are finished, you will have a set of parallel lines that may or may not overlap. Using this picture, figure out how you will handle the issue of availability.
I have attached a sample of a completed availability map for a widely dispersed global team. As you can see on this map, there are no easy solutions, but we now have a better definition of the problem.
If I need to talk to someone, when will they be there? Of course the hours of availability provide an excellent opportunity to communicate. For a specific time in those hours, set aside time for all communications technology to be enabled. This means:
Cell phones and pagers on
Voice mail check
Be around to answer the phone
Need to get everyone together for a quick announcement. Use the electronic huddle. Any of the group communication technologies work for the huddle. These impromptu meetings are short and focused on one topic. When your team has mastered the control to keep huddle meetings short, you can add status reporting to the list of topics. Here are some effective topics for a huddle:
Kickoff a mini project
Recognition of a team member
Identify help people need
Congratulations or greeting for a cultural event
Need a place to post announcements and to store documents? Using a free project management solution like ActiveCollab can address most of your needs to store information that is vital to the team. Or, those of you in large corporations check this out with your IT person. Most IT organizations have the capability to set up your website. Here is just some of the information that could be stored on the web:
Contact points meeting minutes
Pictures and bios of team members
Links to resources
Make sure you let everyone know when the website has been updated.
Tags: best practices, communications, global communications, Global leadership, global team, teleconference, telephone call, video conference, virtual meetings
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In this entry, I will complete discussing the best practices for the remainder of the global communications technologies.
The Big Dogz use the telephone call when there is a high interpersonal component to the message. We want to take advantage of using the tone to add value to our effectiveness in both sending and receiving messages.
- Make a plan. Sketch out how you want the conversation to proceed. What information do you need to convey or acquire.
- Practice the call. If this is a very important call, invest a few minutes in practicing what you will say.
- Use paraphrasing. Periodically, summarize what you have heard and ask the listener to summarize so you can check if you are communicating effectively.
- Have a picture of the person you are talking with in front of you. Focus on the picture while you talk; this will keep you from multi-tasking and will help you remember you are talking to a person.
- Follow up any agreements or commitments with an email. Review the email with the person before you send it to others.
The Big Dogz use teleconferencing to communicate with groups of people about complex issues.
- Publish an agenda prior to the teleconference
- Encourage people to share pictures of themselves so they can put a face to the voice
- Distribute any presentation material in advance
- Ask everyone to introduce or identify themselves when joining the call
- Have anyone who speaks to identify themselves before saying their piece
- Identify conference protocols like when to speak
- Be aware of cultural difference in telephone etiquette
- Use paraphrasing to facilitate understanding
- Take notes on key decisions, key information disclosed and any action commitments made. Send this document to the teleconference attendees for validation before sending to people outside the call
Groupware (Webex, Live Meeting, etc)
The Big Dogz use groupware to take advantage of the visual as well as the auditory cues in global communication. This medium is ideal for communication that is complex and requires a significant interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for teleconferencing apply here as well. In addition:
- Use a webcam to show a video of yourself. It is amazing how much more attentive people are when they can see you. If possible use webcams for all the people in the meeting. Of course when you get more than three people in the meeting, it can get confusing moving all the video around.
- Have a list of all the participants and track how much they are engaged. When you see someone’s engagement get out of proportion, take corrective action to address the issue.
- Take advantage of the features of the virtual meeting service. Providing materials, setting up assessments and surveys are some of the excellent tools available. Most services allow the participants to use a chat feature. Make use of this feature to capture ideas and discussion points. Once the session is over, you can send the chat file to all the participants.
- Have a word processing document available for capturing the minutes of the meeting. Update it dynamically and at the end of the meeting, review it then send a copy to all the participants. I have attached a Word file you can use for capturing information about your virtual meeting. Please feel free to use it.
The Big Dogz use video conferencing when communicating complex information with larger groups requiring a high level of interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for the face to face meetings apply here. In addition:
- Be aware that video technology may not appear smooth. The technology has advanced well enough to provide television quality video; however, these levels of sophistication require enormous bandwidth capabilities and may not be available at your installation.
- Use the video to focus in on the speaker so that we can take advantage of tone and non verbal cues.
- Share the time in the video close-ups.
- Remind people that unnecessary movement detracts from people’s ability to focus on the meeting.
- If your videoconferencing system has a “self view” function, use it to see how you are being seen by the people at the other end of the conference.
- Once you make the adjustments for optimum video and audio components, leave them alone. Constant changing of the focus or sound levels can be distracting.
- How you dress can be important in a videoconference. Light clothing is more effective than darker clothing.
- If snacks are being provided at some locations and not others, have them out of camera range.
The Big Dogz know that communicating effectively in a global team environment is difficult. By using these best practices, you can be one of the Big Dogz.
E-mail best practices for the global leader April 22, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally.
Tags: best practices, communicate by email, effective email, email, email best practice, global communications, Global leadership, using email, using technology to communicatye
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The Big Dogz match their choice of communication technology to the degree of interpersonal interaction required coupled with complexity of the topic. I discussed the technology choices in my last entry. This entry looks at some best practices for using E-mail.
· Keep it short, no more that 1 scroll for the receiver. If you need more than that, it is probably too complex to use e-mail. Try a phone call instead.
· Try putting your entire message on the subject line.
· Use tags on the subject line.
Action: when you want the recipient to take action
Response: when you are responding to a request from the recipient
FYI (H,M,L): when you are just giving information to the recipient
It is amazing. When you start using these tags to send email to others, they will start using the same tags with you.
· Use the subject line to get the attention of the reader without being melodramatic.
· Consider the guideline “One e-mail, one topic.” It makes it easier for the recipient to focus.
· If you are asking for information, leave a space between each request. The recipient can put the answer in the space. Make it easy for them to respond.
· Use shared websites for large files. Sending large attachments clog the network. Just include the link.
· Forget the background scenery. It just irritates most people.
· Never send an email when you are emotional! Write your response and store it in the Draft folder for later reading. Once you have calmed down, read the email from the perspective of the receiver. A good technique is to read the e-mail aloud to make sure it is not threatening. In more sensitive situations, have a colleague read the e-mail and give you feedback. Make changes and then send.
· Using caps, colors and other fonts can help the recipient focus on what is important. Be careful of over doing it.
· If you are seeking information, use pre-defined forms to make it easy for the recipient to give you the information.
· Run spell check. Look for other non-spelling errors like the use of form when you mean from.
· Use cc and bcc sparingly. Make sure every person cc’d needs to be aware of the information. If you are using bcc too much, it may be a sign that you need to talk to the person.
· Use “Reply all” only when everyone needs to see your response.
· Stay out of flame wars. If you are the target, use the telephone to handle the situation.
· If you send two emails on the same subject and the recipient still does not understand, make an appointment to talk to them
· Using sarcasm in an e-mail will always get you into trouble. Sometimes we feel we are being cute with sarcasm, but the recipient does not think we are being sarcastic. They think we really mean it.
· Never put anything in an e-mail that you would not want read in a court of law. For some of us, this also means never put anything in an email that you would not read in front of your mother!
I have special tip I want to share for those who communicate with people who have English as a second language. Try to keep your vocabulary and content at the eighth grade level or lower. For those of you in the USA and most of Europe, this means 13-14 year olds. Now, the vocabulary of a native English speaking 13-14 year old is very impressive. I am not suggesting you speak like a 13-14 year old; just use that level vocabulary. Here is how you can check the grade level of your e-mail to your global team members with ESL.
1. Copy your e-mail and paste it into Word.
2. Click on Tools
3. Click Options
4. Click Spelling & Grammar
5. Click the box next to Show Readability Statistics
6. Click OK
7. Run spell check
At the end of the spell check, you will get a report of the readability level of the content. If you copy and paste this entry into Word, you will see I have written it at grade level 6.2.
To customize your readability to each global team member, run the readability statistics report for e-mails they send to you. You can improve the effectiveness your e-mail by using English at the same readability level.
If you have any tips or techniques for communicating more effectively using e-mail, please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your tip.
Next, I will be looking at some best practices for communicating with voice mail.
Global communication technology April 14, 2009Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
Tags: communicatin technology, communicating globally, customizing global communication, effective global leadership, global communicaiton, matching technology to communication, using technology to communicate
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Communicating in a global environment is a significant challenge and can sometimes be a daunting experience. The first aspect of global communication the Big Dogz focus on is the technology. Matching the communications technology with the situation will go a long way toward making your global communications more effective.
Choosing the optimum technology starts with looking at two major dimensions of the communication.
- How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
- How complex is the content?
Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.
Use this technology when the interpersonal contact is low and content is the least complex. Effective uses of e-mail include specific answers to questions, announcements, quick thank you notes or conversation summaries. E-mail is the most preferred communication technology amongst global leaders. It is also the least effective communication technology relative to understanding. E-mail is widely used because it is quick, easy and can withstand time zone differences. When you select e-mail for other than simple communication, you can count on spending more time later sorting out the problems! The Big Dogz consider e-mail the technology of last resort. Use it sparingly.
Voice mail adds the power of tone to your communication. Tone is important for communicating urgency. This sense of urgency addresses the slightly higher need for interpersonal contact in the communication. Also, you can address a more complex topic with voicemail. Voicemail is a more effective choice than e-mail because of the tone factor. However, it is always a good practice to follow up with an e-mail since that is the preferred communication technology.
3. Instant message
When you have an urgent message to send and the message is simple, instant messaging is an effective technology. In recent time, IM technology advances have been spectacular, and IM has become almost indispensable for communicating when people are working at the same time. IM is quick and allows two-way communication. You can also save the content for later reference to make sure you understand what transpired. For those skilled it its use, the IM technology, in some situations, can be as effective as the next technology.
4. Telephone call
Good old fashioned talking to one another! This technology is effective for high interpersonal contact and content complexity. It is two-way communication without the non-verbal signals. The lack of non-verbal signals is a major drawback; however, most people can accommodate the difference with more emphasis on tone. The telephone allows the highly interactive paraphrasing that is the hallmark of effective communication. The Big Dogz use this technology when the topic is important or personal.
5. Telephone conference
Ahhhh, the joys of a virtual meeting! This technology is most effective when you need interpersonal contact to share information or generate solutions to complex issues. The telephone conference allows you to involve more people simultaneously and to deliver more information quickly. One of the major mistakes made in telephone conferences is that there is no validation that everyone understood the same thing! The Big Dogz know that taking some time at the end of a teleconference to verify a common understanding makes future teleconferences shorter.
In this category, the Big Dogz include tools like Microsoft Live Meeting, Webex Meeting and others for conducting virtual meetings. Using these tools adds a significant improvement to the virtual meeting. They allow anyone at the meeting to display visual representations of information. Even simple slides with bullet points are more effective than trying to explain with just spoken words. Once you conduct a global meeting with one of these tools, you will never go back to just conference calls. Of all the technologies here, I believe this one has the highest return on investment in providing communication that is more effective. One of the drawbacks to this technology is that is it same time technology and that does not address the time zone challenge. However, the Big Dogz will use this technology anytime they can! Interactive virtual meetings address a need for high interpersonal contact while allowing the global tem to discuss and resolve complex issues.
Also in this category are the tools that allow you to share stored information on the internet or within your organization’s intranet. Having a team website falls into this category. The team website is a great place to store common documents, status reports or to contain information about the people on the project. Recent major advances in website development tools have made it easier for anyone to create a website. This is no longer a request to the IT department. One big advantage of the team website is that it spans time zones.
7. Video conference
Video technology takes the virtual meeting concept to the next level. With video, you get the non-verbal component, which adds significant power to the communication process. Video conference technology is often difficult to find in any but the large corporations since it is so expensive. Again, technology has come to the rescue in the form of the webcam. This technology is very effective for one-on-one meetings between the global leader and team members. It addresses the need for high interpersonal contact and high complexity. Using webcams in regular team meetings also increase the interactivity of the team members. The good news is that webcams are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. The no so good news is that webcams consume large quantities of internet bandwidth. The Big Dogz check to see if they can use webcams and use them whenever possible.
8. Face to face
OK, well not exactly a technology. Face to face communication is by far the most effective way to communicate. You get all three major components of a communication — the content, the tone and the non-verbal signals. This technology is most effective for building rapport and commitment. Of course, the major drawback with this technology is the cost in time and money. The Big Dogz do everything they can to get at least one face to face meeting with each member of the global team.
Choosing the optimum technology can significantly improve your capability to lead a global team successfully. The Big Dogz know that you can’t always use the technology you want, but you can make an informed decision and be aware of the potential problems that could arise from using less than optimum technology.
In my next entry, I will describe some of the best practices with each of these technologies.
Leading a global team April 7, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Team basics.
Tags: effective global leadership, global, Global leadership, leadership, Leading globally, teams
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Do you have to lead global teams? Many companies are expanding globally to take advantage of the basic economics of hiring workers. While some of us may not agree with that strategy, it is widely adopted. It is not the purpose of this entry to discuss the viability of international outsourcing. It is my purpose to give you some tips and techniques on how to be more effective in that environment.
Some of the most common challenges facing managers and leaders in a global environment are:
- Staying connected
- Time differences
- Alignment or mis-alignment of goals
- Culture differences
- Expectations of senior management
- Managing performance
Not everyone can be successful as a global manager or leader. Effective global leaders typically have:
- A willingness to communicate, form relationships with others, and try new things
- Good cross-cultural communication and language skills
- Flexibility and open-mindedness about other cultures
- The ability to determine if a global worker is performing up to expectations
The principles that guide us in becoming an effective team leader with co-located teams also apply in the global arena. However, the effective global leader is aware of four factors that affect their performance in a global situation.
1. Pay more attention to time. Things just take longer when you are acting globally. It is sometimes difficult to convince senior management of this concept, but it is true and the global leader must consider it. In addition, the effective global leader understands that not everyone lives in the same time zone.
2. Have more patience. Since things take longer and people do things differently across the globe, the effective global leader has more patience. I once had a manager tell me, “I know I need to learn more patience. How long will this take?” Learn how to breathe deeply or learn the art of Zen or something to increase your patience. You will need it.
3. Make effective use of technology. The purveyors of technology are rapidly working to close the global gap. Global leaders have telephone and visual technology available to access people in any part of the world. Learn the technology and use it to help you close the global gap!
4. Adapt to different cultures. When everyone shares the same building, it is easy to interact culturally. Once you go more than 50 miles, nuances start to creep into the culture. Just imagine the cultural differences when the person is over 5000 miles away. It is the responsibility of the global leader to create a team culture. That culture must not violate any of the cultural taboos of the global community.
Using these four factors as a foundation, I will be writing a series on leading global teams with emphasis on communicating, building rapport and getting results. Stay tuned.