eMusings Newsletter

MARCH 2011


Dear (Contact First Name), 

3 Human Elements


As I write this, we're only a few days away from our semi-annual meeting, a week when the four principal members of BoldWork gather together to reconnect, brainstorm, redefine, reevaluate and reenergize goals...and just spend some time kicking back. We work long hours knowing that, at the end of the day, there will be good wine, good food and good conversation.


We've known each other for years and for some of us, personal relationships predate working ones. The four of us have never all resided on the same state soil at the same time. Currently, we're scattered from east coast to west coast, with a stop in between. That certainly makes it more convenient (and cost effective) to court clients across the U.S. And it makes it harder to stay connected as a team.


Our challenge isn't so different from other organizations. Teams are vital to help bring the knowledge and experience of many people together to tackle ever-complex issues. Teams have always given rise to unique concerns - how to effectively share ownership and decision making, clarify individual roles, address varying skill levels when it comes to collaboration. But the way we do business today - in a global market - makes things more complicated as we increasingly find ourselves working in teams that seldom come together face to face.


More and more, co-located teams (members who are in the same location, in the same time zone) are being replaced by Geographically Dispersed Teams (GDTs) whose members are spread across distance, time and sometimes cultures, and rarely meet. It's ironic that now, when we so desperately need increased collaboration to be successful, market conditions (like an inability to relocate because of the downturn in real estate) and lifestyle choices (like increased telecommuting) decrease our opportunities to be part of a co-located team who enjoys a lot of face time.


We know that group effectiveness has a lot to do with bonding and building trust. But how do we bond, how do we build trust, when we seldom (and sometimes never) see one another?



Jennie Ayers

Senior Partner, BoldWork  
In This Issue
Are You Responsible for a GDT?
Accountability - "Do No Harm"
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"Global Teaming" by Jennie Ayers 

(748 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)


When I hear the word "team", I automatically think slugger in a Cardinals' uniform. My grandmother was a diehard baseball fan and I grew up listening to the Red Birds on the radio. (Yes, we had TV. Color TV. But she loved radio.) Business brought the concept of "team" from ball field to board room and high fives from the dugout to the conference table. Teams have always come together in a place...until now.

In the current business world, often out of necessity, Globally Dispersed Teams (GDTs) frequently supplant workers who used to come together in shared quarters. A recent study of 600 project managers found that 40% of their teams never meet in person. Gone is that informal "water cooler" moment which often provides breakthrough opportunities as well as social chitchat. In its place is a virtual reality, where the degree of trust and bonding among team members is a reflection of their own perceptions of what it means to be a part of this virtual team.

When we define WorkClimate, we talk about an employee's unique and subjective perception of their work environment. When we must rely on personal perceptions of what it "feels like" to be a member of a dispersed team, then creating a healthy WorkClimate becomes the leverage point for managing the performance of GDTs. And team leaders - the ones best able to exert the most influence on WorkClimate - will help ensure GDT effectiveness by focusing on three key factors of WorkClimate - clarity, a press for excellence and accountability.    GDT


Are members clear on the team's common purpose? Are they committed to that purpose? Do they understand their roles and responsibilities? Can they articulate support and/or coaching needs? Will they recognize when a goal has been reached? Do they understand how each team member's efforts, including their own, contribute to the team's strategy and success? Do they know how to send a message "upwards" when there's a problem or they need feedback?

These are questions we ask in building clarity for any team. But with GDTs, these questions need to be revisited on a regular basis, as long as the team is intact. And while technology often makes communication easier, it doesn't always make it better. GDT leaders have to work harder and more creatively than conventional team leaders to connect one on one and with the team as a whole. This can mean forgoing that quick email and picking up the phone for a real conversation. It might mean more frequent use of videoconferencing to make sure team members have a chance to "see" as well as hear one another. And it means making an effort to schedule face time, especially with team members who aren't regularly on the GDT leader's home turf. When it comes to GDTs, over-communicate with rich content.

Press for Excellence

Like any team leader, a GDT leader assures the performance standards for his or her group, ensures that team members understand what's expected of them - and then puts appropriate pressure on the team to continually improve, to develop and be the best. With a co-located team, it's easy for a leader to "check in" and reinforce these standards of excellence. In the case of GDT's, it can be "out of sight, out of mind" - there needs to be a more structured process to keep the team on track.


Leaders want and need employees to feel a sense of membership and commitment to the team. Team members need to accept accountability for their share of the workload but this may not happen if they don't feel they have a meaningful and direct impact on the team's work. Again, the GDT leader must ensure that the varying lines of communication (email, conference call, video conferencing) remain open and that accountability to the overall team and to one another is discussed with significant clarity. GDT members will also need to be more proactive in surfacing issues or challenges when they first arise. They can't wait for their team leader to spot trouble.

It's the Future

GDT2Current conditions in today's market mean GDTs are not only here to stay but will become more prevalent. By leveraging the key areas of WorkClimate - clarity, press for excellence and accountability - leaders of GDTs can assure their unique teams will be as effective as any more traditional team that enjoys the luxury of bonding over morning coffee. Co-locate or dispersed, teams can adapt and thrive.

What's your experience with globally dispersed teams?

"The Inside Job: Accountability to the Rescue" by Rebecca Ripley 

(315 words - estimated reading time: less than 2 minutes)


On a plane ride back from Ireland last week, I had the opportunity to watch Inside Job, the 2010 Charles Ferguson documentary that just won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film.  The mini-description in the Aer Lingus menu said the film "combines extensive research and convincing interviews to single out a rogue industry that has tainted every sector of the financial system."  In short, it shows how the reduction of long-standing government regulation and the aggressive pursuit of personal wealth resulted in actions seemingly void of integrity.insidejobposter


While trying to contain my outrage over what I saw and heard, I couldn't help but think that had more people been committed to doing BoldWork - with that key component of accountability to self and society - our economy may never have tanked.  The despicable behavior across the board -- of Wall Street firms, government officials, business school professors and regulators -- sent our country and the world into an economic tailspin.  Key players seemed far more interested in exponentially growing their own bank accounts than in protecting other people's assets.


Sacred squirrels were evident throughout the film, and the documentary got me thinking.  How many other industries are ignoring signs of looming troubles because it's in the best interest of people in power (key decision makers and influencers) to forge ahead, maintain the status quo, and reap personal rewards without regard for others? Work without accountability never qualifies as BoldWork.


If for no other reason than to stimulate provocative conversation, I encourage you to rent, download or place an On Demand order for Inside Job.  Even if only half of what is reported is true, it will likely inspire you to see your organization through a fresh lens.  Stay vigilant.  What practices are you employing (either though commission or omission) that have the potential to wreck havoc on your employees, in your community, or potentially, across the globe?


boldworklogoAt BoldWork, we specialize in helping businesses and organizations optimize the performance of the people who work for them.

Typically, our clients come to us when they are seeking to change, to solve problems or to challenge a status quo that no longer works. Most importantly, they call us when they want to create a WorkClimate that increases motivation and strengthens employee engagement.

Please take a moment and visit our website at www.doboldwork.com to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at info@doboldwork.com