How to effectively survive global ‘calls’

Global callI guess at least some of you have already spent parts or even most of their day glued to a telephone or other device trying to participate in ‘global’ calls, brainstormings or discussions with various others. Being a virtual team member is far from being easy, even if you don’t have to lead a session in a particular moment, that is for sure.

The hardest thing to follow is actually when you have a group of people sitting together in a room and others participating on the phone in different locations. The team sharing a physical location has definitely an advantage over the other participants as its members can visually interact and see each others faces and gestures. It gets especially difficult, when not everybody can be clearly understood through the phone. Another tricky thing is that you might not even know who is speaking as you don’t know all the people on the line and hence cannot recognize the voices. Very few people actually state their name when they speak as they tend to forget that not all the participants can see them.

How do you make the most out of such sessions without giving in to the temptation of doing other things while your phone continues to speak, on mute?

As a participant you should look at the agenda right from the start, before the call has even started and identify the areas of interest to you. Write down a couple of points that you want to touch upon, or simply note some thoughts. This will help you to stay focused during the call especially for the parts that are important for you.

Remember: nobody can listen for hours in a row! If an agenda is set up in a right way, it will leave enough breaks to allow for the participants to re-focus. It will also take into account the different periods of the day the participants are in and hence move the parts where solid input is expected to reasonable times so that the people are still awake.

As an organizer, this website provides a helpful oversight over time zones and lets you easily schedule global meetings.

If you need participants from all over the world, I would also highly recommend scheduling various meetings having the same topic, even if it means that you have to repeat yourself. You will ensure that nobody will be expected to attend at an unusual hour, which makes people happier and hopefully they will contribute more actively. You could for example structure your meeting like a World Café, where every contribution actually builds up on the contributions of the previous sessions. By doing so, you ensure that even for you, it doesn’t get boring and the outcome will definitely be there.

Apart from that, if you can, try to make the sessions as short as possible. The shorter you time your meeting, the more attention you will get and the more focused your participants will be. Oh, and avoid lengthy power point shows, you will loose your audience in minutes. Write down bullet points of what is being said or accompany the discussion in a way that makes it more interesting to the participants, even those not being physically there!

If you have any more insights to share or tipps and tricks on how to ‘survive’ long calls, let me know!

Have an excellent morning, afternoon, evening, night! Jenny

Further reading:

A mindful approach for dealing with procedures and processes

wiresIf you ever worked in big structures, be it in the private or in the public sector, you will have encountered a lot of procedures and processes. Imagine you need a specific software or an upgrade to an existing programme in order to carry on with your work. Normally, you can’t simply buy the latter yourself but you have to follow a certain procedure, i.e. find, fill in and submit a form somewhere and then hope that you get what you wanted as quickly as possible. Or you want to hire the services of a specific vendor and thus have to work yourself through procurement and other regulations in order to be able to pay the bill after the job has been delivered.

I am sure you all know loads of examples where you had to overcome  – in your opinion – unnecessary hurdles to be able to simply deliver what you have been hired for in the required time frame. It is true that on first sight, procedures are complicated, slow down what could have been a straight forward job and might even end up in a lot of frustrations, if things get stuck somewhere and nobody knows anymore why and what to do to solve the problem.

Well, let me tell you one very important thing: take it easy! You cannot change the way things are set up anyways and usually there is a reason behind the procedures even if sometimes it is quite difficult to see this. Instead of losing your precious energy in the process, focus on tackling it in a mindful way. As I have outlined in one of my previous posts about the basics of mindfulness, patience and letting go are two main ingredients on your path to positively dealing with a tough situation.

Hence, if you encounter a process which is tedious and long and you have the impression that nothing moves forward:

  1. Take a step back and smile at yourself
  2. Remember that behind every procedure, online form and ‘hotline’ there are people just trying to do their job as much as you want to do yours.
  3. Be friendly with these people, it will make your life easier
  4. Concentrate your energy on things that you can influence and where your impact can be felt. These might be very small things, like helping a team member or pursuing another task.
  5. Pay close attention to what the frustration does to your body, i.e. how the stress can be felt and where.
  6. Let it go!
  7. Now you can write a message to your internal stakeholders telling them that there is a delay in delivering your objectives because of xyz reason but that you are doing all you can to speed things up.
  8. Let the things unfold, watch and breathe

Please try this out for yourself and let me know what you experienced. I have to say that for me it works very well… life itself is short, so enjoying every part of it and focusing on things that matter and that you can influence should be your main concern! Enjoy the rest of your week! Jenny

The fight for attention in communication

listening

Lately, I had again the ‘pleasure’ of sitting in front of people who were checking their various devices and answering e-mails whilst talking to me. I don’t know how you react and feel in such a situation but I can say that it leaves me:

  • Angry
  • Disappointed
  • With a sentiment of ‘emptiness’

Whereas with people you know and you usually interact with, you can easily voice your discontent in a nice and polite way, with people you don’t know, this is quite more delicate. Especially in a situation where your counterparts are in fact assessing or testing you, you don’t want to risk getting bad marks or being excluded from further processes. And still, the fact of not being attentively listened to actually has a very ‘sour aftertaste’, where you find yourself actually wondering whether what you had to tell was

  • Interesting
  • Worth being told

You might even think that maybe your performance or appearance was not as it should have been.

Let me tell you something: this is completely untrue! Every human being deserves being listened to, no matter what he or she has to tell. When setting up an appointment, even a telephone one, you ought to show respect and attention. It cannot be stressed enough how the course of interaction can be altered and positively affected if basic rules are understood and put into practice.

So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation as described above, whatever the context and the circumstances, you might want to pause for a moment until you get the attention of your counterpart and politely ask for quality time. It will give you satisfaction and a sense of value even though you might not be able to change other people’s future behaviour.

Colours as important influencing factors in culture and communication

coloured baloons

Did you know that colours are in fact part of our non-verbal communication and thus extremely important to how we convey messages, choose brands and feel comfortable or rather restless? The meaning of colours also differ from culture to culture and from era to era which can have a tremendous impact when designs etc. are implemented. Just to give you a small example: whereas the colour black will be associated with death, mourning, unhappiness in many European cultures, it actually means honor in others, like in Japan.

Different colours also mean different things when associated with politics. Red is typically linked with socialism and communism, white has a more pacific meaning. Just take a look at the programmes and the colours of the different political parties you know!

Colour can thus be a very influential factor for coaches and event managers when choosing a location and thinking about the concrete outcome that needs to be achieved. Colour is also extremely important in communication when designing a campaign, introducing a new brand or product. Taking the wrong colour for a target audience can have a disastrous impact. Being sensitive to colours and what they actually mean in which culture and for which target audience will help you communicate effectively and achieve your desired results. Think about yourself: how do you feel when sitting in a meeting room where the walls have been painted in red? And how do you feel when they are green? Try paying attention next time you feel uncomfortable in a certain environment and write your findings down. What did you experience?

You might want to click on the following interesting links for further reading:

Illustrating how cultural faux pas happen

This little video really illustrates quite impressively how we function as human beings, taking only one little example (holding hands). Imagine how many other gestures, words, behaviours etc. can be misinterpreted and misunderstood in the intercultural context and what consequences this might have… you might want to remember this next time you meet with or work with somebody from a different culture. Being mindful, open and non-judging is a first step to train your brain to react differently! Enjoy!

Mindful leadership applied to virtual teams

Lately I wrote a post on what it takes to lead multicultural teams. It now struck me that many of us don’t just lead multicultural but also “virtual” teams; this adds a lot of complexity to something that is already not so easy on its own.

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right place

What actually is a virtual team some of you might ask? Following Wikipedia, a virtual team is “(…)a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology”. In clear it means that you might be sitting in one location, like me in Switzerland for example, and you actually lead and work with people all across Europe or even around the globe. It also means that you might not even see these people physically throughout the year. Additionally, it might be that you are not the direct line boss of some of these people but ‘only’ the matrix with less direct possibilities to motivate your staff as you are not the final ‘evaluator’ and ‘bonus giver’.

So, how do you then communicate and how do you walk the fine line of what is acceptable in one culture and what is not? I have to say that at first and being a coach, it was very difficult for me, not so see people as the non-verbal and paraverbal components of face-to-face discussions usually tell me the whole and hidden story and let me intuit the truth behind spoken words. Video communication through web cams or other means would have helped a lot but unfortunately this was not available. So what to do?

First of all and especially concerning team members from cultures I did not have had any work contacts before, I informed myself about the habits, the style and the usual work behaviours from colleagues who were willing to share. I also spent a lot of time speaking to my team and of course listening to them, in order to find out more about them as  persons, their lifestyles etc. Very often I also asked open questions like: “What does this mean for you”? Or “how do you interpret this particular objective or task”. Creating a trusting and open relationship where all partners and team members feel comfortable is extremely important. Of course I made mistakes, as we all do I am sure, misinterpreting things  or inadvertently creating a situation that for others could be quite uncomfortable. Learning from these mistakes, discussing and exchanging are the ingredients to successfully setting a viable basis for virtual work relationships. Interesting enough, when you listen emphatically, mindfully and with attention and when you are truly interested in what your counterpart has to say, you will quickly find that the tone of voice alone can tell you stories about the state of mind of the other person.

It actually is a skill to be able to listen and direct a conversation when there are so many things competing for your attention in the office at the same time. What is your experience with virtual teams? What works and what not? Looking forward to your thoughts!