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What Did You Do Today? April 14, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
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On my way into lower Manhattan each day, it seems that the Girl Scouts are everywhere.  Not that Girl Scouts are hanging around the Path train station.  Rather, the signage of their current branding and recruitment campaign is everywhere.

You just have to love this campaign.  It positions the Girls Scouts as a modern looking, leadership bound, outside experience, and girl power organization while at the same time it works as a recruitment tool for both potential scouts and leaders.

What did you do today? Just the line itself pulls you inward and makes your think…just what did I do today that helped me and my community?  It’s a powerful use of both imagery and words that strikes a deep cord…at least to me and perhaps many others who trudge everyday into the bowels of Manhattan…spending hours each week just moving in and out of the Big Apple.

I particularly like the global image being projected here.  That the Girl Scouts are not just a USA thing.  The Girl Scouts embrace world cultures and religions.  It’s a statement of both openness and a welcoming nature.  It’s a celebration of women, both older and younger, sharing in the spirit of learning, community, leadership, ambition, and experience.

From a branding point of view, this campaign is a textbook example the simplicity and power of imagery married with meaningful, powerful statement.  Clean and simple.

What did you do today?

PS:  They cleverly launched this campaign during the annual Girl Scout cookies sale.  Very clever indeed.

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Discovering a performance issue in a global team July 6, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Performance issues.
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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.

Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
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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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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 best practices for the Global Team Leader May 20, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Effective meetings, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally.
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In this entry, I will complete discussing the best practices for the remainder of the global communications technologies.

 Telephone call

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.

 Teleconferencing

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.

 Videoconferencing

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.

meeting documentation

E-mail best practices for the global leader April 22, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally.
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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 (rbronder@gmail.com) with your tip.

 

Next, I will be looking at some best practices for communicating with voice mail.

 

Leading a global team April 7, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Team basics.
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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
  • Language
  • 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.