With today's fluid working environment, team members often don't know the strengths and weaknesses of the people they work with. And paradoxically, the fact that we are all tethered together electronically can make it even harder to get to know them.
Social interaction makes us happier and more productive. But that's a real issue when you're working remotely. So what can remote teams do to enhance interaction and create a good psychological environment to foster interaction and creativity?
Studies tell us that most people think two-thirds of the time they spend in web meetings is wasted. That means organizations are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars down the tube every year because they can't or won't make their web meetings better. And that makes me angry.
Many companies today are doing more internal training with in-house Subject Matter Experts. But while webinars are a terrific tool for leveraging the brainpower in an organization, sometimes these sessions don't turn out to be quite as successful as we would like.
There are three factors that make up a successful remote team. Each is equally important. And while a remote team won't function without technology, that's only one piece of the jigsaw.
All good webmeeting platforms allow you to set permissions for what attendees can and can't do while they're online. And if you don't give people permission to use the tools available to them, you'll never get the most out of the experience.
Even a few years ago, this week's mini-ice age would have seen most America businesses shut down completely. But not now. Those who were prepared to work remotely were able to carry on almost as normal. Those that didn't will be figuratively and literally digging out for days.
Often when running a meeting - be it physical or virtual - we can get so focused on "getting everything done" in the allotted time slot that we forget to focus on what it is we're actually supposed to accomplish.
Once a year, most of us head to the doctor for an annual physical. Your team needs a regular examination, too, and for the same reasons. That's even more true if you have team members who work remotely, where problems can arise unnoticed.
One of the most important functions of a meeting is talking to each other. And that's why the Chat and Q+A features of webmeeting platforms are so useful. Here's how to use them more effectively.
How engaged in their work are the people in your team? How do you know? These questions are critical to all managers, whether they manage a team directly or have people spread across the planet over whom they don't have direct control.
Some webmeeting platforms make it hard for you to leverage their full capabilities. In fact you sometimes find yourself wondering whether the engineers who designed the darned things have ever actually tried using them to get any work done.
One of the most common ways to get feedback in a live meeting or presentation is also available, in one form or another, with online meeting and conferencing platforms. I'm talking about the good old raising of hands.
Not everyone is wowed by virtual meetings, but debates about whether meeting face-to-face is always preferable are spurious and counter-productive. There's a time and place for both, and the decision to have a virtual meeting is not always about money.
We don't hear much about negative team behavior in remote teams because it seldom takes the form of overt bullying. Sure, people may berate each other on conference calls, but often the most pervasive and insidious behavior is aggressive, purposeful and destructive silence.
When it comes to managing a remote team, technology is not a communication problem. Your choices are the problem. You need to choose the right tool then execute your communication well – and stop blaming the tools if you chose the wrong one for the wrong reason.