Managing Teams – with collaboration as a core

Square Peg, Round Hole? For many years I’ve managed teams of one form or another. I’m no guru, I’m no expert, but I feel the methods that I use help maintain morale and minimize attrition – cue leavers and morale issues next week 🙂 My first tasters were real people in a single location. Now its different we are scattered to the corners of the globe, the only physical contact for most involves aviation fuel. The only way to bridge the divide is to use the collaboration techniques and tools we are all familiar with. The key strategies and tools I use for this are:

Regular 1-to-1 Meetings.  On a weekly basis I try and have a short session with each person who reports to me, normally less than 30 minutes.  This is generally done using AT&T Connect to integrate audio with a web meeting.  The most important elements are sharing a mind map of activities between myself and the people concerned.  The general aim is to catch up on what that person has achieved, what is planned, assisting with priority setting and understanding workload and any issues.  Each month I try and extent those calls to a full hour to give more feedback, mentoring and coaching as required.  I also have a wiki page where we can co-edit and keep lists and any other information – access to this is restricted to me, my report and my manager (the latter in case I get hit by an absence for any reason).

Regular team Meetings.  In my case I try to do this weekly again using an integrated web meeting and audio tool (AT&T Connect) which comes more into its own the larger the audience as you can easily see who is there and who is speaking.  I employ 2 strategies to try and keep these meetings interactive and interesting.  Firstly only very brief updates from people, no more than 2 minutes.  Then there may be announcements which we will discuss and finally time for discussion – and importantly I use a significant time in the meeting to discuss things that although related to collaborative technology may not be what we are doing today.  So for example next meeting we’ll discuss how to support high performance teams with collaboration technology.  The other key, especially with cross continent teams is to draw everyone into the discussion, its really hard but we do have some good discussions and it means that we also encourage concentration on the meeting – something I think is most difficult to control.  I do try but summarily fail to keep impressive minutes of team meetings – to be honest though how many of us refer back to them: these meetings aren’t project status meetings they are calls for us to get together as a team partly structured partly unstructured.

Open Doors.  Now how do you have an open door when no-one can physically see the door.  For me presence awareness and an up to date free/busy time is important for all the team, everyone.  Instant messaging is a really important communication media for me and the team as a whole, Sametime is out corporate tool.  I also don’t mind people taking themselves offline for periods to get things done without distraction.  In today’s world this is easier than it used to be.  With the lack of interruption from colleagues because the people around you are in other remote teams its great to be able to give yourself and team the opportunity to switch off from the world and do.  Remembering that it isn’t the conversations and interruptions that motivate people, its the doing and sense of achievement.

Banter, status and announcements.  For me these are really important “going for lunch now”, “feeling grotty today”, “its cold here”.  These are vital to assess mood, feeling and help initiate conversations.  None of us like a conversation which starts straight on the work front we all like a moment to say hi and have 30 seconds talking about things, and Twitter really helps here because in many cases it gives the subject for the ice-breaker.  I also don’t mind if team members don’t use twitter, I advocate it but no one can dictate its use.  So as such you have to accept different people will use if for different purposes and give it different attention.

And all this I hope leads to better motivation … which leads nicely to my next blog post {gimme 10 to write it}.

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