jump to navigation

Instant messaging best practices for the global team leader May 12, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally, Management, Networking, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

When the message is urgent and simple, the Big Dogz use Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate.

 Some of the advantages of using IM are:

  1. It is quick, saving time that can be used for other tasks
  2. Using an IM option, you can save the conversation for later referral. This feature eliminates the need to call someone back and ask the same question again!
  3. It allows people to work on important tasks while waiting for an important asynchronous interrupt from colleagues or clients.
  4. If a person is busy working on that high priority project you want done NOW, others know to leave that person alone.
  5. It allows you to communicate immediately to everyone at once.
  6. Studies have shown that when IM is used, email traffic goes down; sometimes significantly.

 Here are some tips to using IM to help communicate with your global team.

 Define a policy for IM use. You as the leader can establish guidelines on how and when the global team will use IM. However, do not be so inflexible that your people think you are inhibiting their creativity. Periodically review your policy to make sure you are getting maximum advantage of IM. A good starter policy is to use IM for quick information about project status, meeting times or if a person is available.

 IM should never be used to transmit confidential or sensitive information. This type of communication is high on the interpersonal scale and the complexity scale. Face to face communication is the most effective followed by the telephone call.

 Create criteria for people to be added to “buddy” lists. Separate business contacts from personal, clients from team members, etc. to avoid the possible conflict of interest in an IM situation.

 Make you team aware that all IM conversations will be recorded to facilitate archiving of essential information.  IM is not to be used to disparage others or to complain.

 If you decide to use the file attachment feature of IM, make sure you have the appropriate security measures in place. If you do not understand this comment, check with your IT support group before you attempt to allow file attachment. Failure to follow this tip could result in serious damage to your team.

 Depending upon the IM software you use, there is some exposure to non-intended people seeing your IM’s. Include in your policy a prohibition of using IM to send phone numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

 Keep IM communication short. IM is an effective communication technology for urgent and simple information. If an IM session becomes more complicated, move it to another communication technology up the scale. A conference call would be an effective choice. With the communication technology awareness of today’s global worker, a virtual meeting might be even more effective.

 IM can be an effective way to set up a discussion or a phone call. A global team leader (GTL) in one of my workshops gave this tip about using IM to communicate with a global team member (GTM) about a complex issue. Here is the IM conversation:

GTL: Are you there?

GTM: Yes

GTL: Do you have 10 minutes to discuss “complex issue?”

GTM: Not just now, how about at 1030?

GTL: Great, I will call you at 1030

GTM: OK

It is simple and it is really effective. Using an IM in this manner demonstrates respect for peoples’ time and still communicates the urgency of the situation.

 One of the most effective features of IM is the ability to set your status to “busy” or “not available”. When you send an IM and get one of these responses, leave a short message stating your purpose and when you need a response. When you can not be interrupted, set your presence indicators accordingly. When you do become available, reset your indicator.

 Always check to see if someone has the time to chat with you. If they don’t, respect that judgment and make an appointment.

 When you are engaged in an IM session, give the other person(s) an opportunity to respond. This conversation is just like a face to face conversation; people need time to process your requests.

 Use proper English. IM has spawned a whole new language complete with emoticons, abbreviations and jargon. This is fine when communicating with friends but is not effective in a business environment. Of course, the use of common terms within your global team is appropriate and can facilitate quicker communication.

 I ran across an excellent article on using IM. The article is written by Stowe Boyd and is useful for the novice as well as the expert IM user. It is worth a read:

 http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/files/EIM.pdf

 The Big Dogz know that with the global distribution of team members, global team leaders need to take advantage of fast and effective communication technology like Instant Messaging.

 What are some of your tips for using IM? What things do people do with IM that drive you nuts? Please respond to this post or send me and email at rbronder@gmail.com

Advertisements

Global communication technology April 14, 2009

Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

 

 

 

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.

  1. How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
  2. How complex is the content?

 

Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.

 

1.      E-mail

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.

 

2.      Voicemail

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.

 

6.      Groupware

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.