Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 5;   February 2, 2005: Virtual Communications: II

Virtual Communications: II

by

Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part II of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.

Ed picked Katrina's number from his cell phone menu, slid his coat just a bit off his right shoulder, stuck the phone between his shoulder and his ear, froze for a moment with his right arm halfway out of his coat sleeve, and listened. "Good," he said aloud to himself, "Ringing. Maybe she's in."

An iphone 4sHe listened to the ringing as he slid his right arm out of his coat, then his left. He threw the coat on the hard hotel bed and sat down on the desk chair. As he began untying his left shoe, Katrina's voice came on the line.

It was her outgoing message. She gave her name and said, "Press star to skip this message." Ed pressed star, thinking, 'Thank you, Katrina.' He'd heard her message thousands of times, but he could never remember how to skip her message.

When Katrina recorded her outgoing message, she gave a gift to all of her colleagues by telling them how to skip her message. For repeat callers like Ed, it saves a few seconds every time. It adds up, and it can be a wonderful thing when he's rushed, or at the end of a long day. Little niceties like that can make the difference between a high-performance team and one that struggles to survive.

Here's Part II of my guidelines for communications within virtual teams. See "Virtual Communications: I," Point Lookout for January 26, 2005, and "Virtual Communications: III," Point Lookout for February 9, 2005, for more.

Be realistic — you'll probably
have to leave a message
when you call
Use Call Waiting only with Caller ID
Interrupting a call just to find out who else is calling is a destructive practice. Get a service called "Caller ID with Name on Call Waiting," which lets you see who's calling without interrupting the current call. Even with this service, interrupt a call only for emergencies or when the second caller calls a second time.
Think "inbox" when leaving voicemail
For voicemail, follow the format we use for email: first give your name, your full phone number, the topic, and the priority, and then give the body of the message. It's a courtesy to the listener.
Speak slowly in voicemail
Speak clearly. If you're calling from a noisy environment, such as an airport, try to find a quiet place to make your call. Slow down even more when you say your phone number or email address.
Don't make up voicemail messages on the fly
Be realistic — you'll probably have to leave a message when you call. Be prepared to do so.
Leave only simple voicemail messages
Complex voicemail messages are hard to follow. The recipient almost always has to write them down. If possible, send complex messages by email. Thirty seconds is the practical maximum, especially if the recipient gets lots of voicemail.
Say goodbye only once
It's amazing how many people say multiple goodbyes. One will do the job.

How many voicemail messages will your team send this year? Think about how much time you can save, and how much confusion you can avoid, if your team follows these guidelines. Just don't try to explain them in voicemail. Go to top Top  Next issue: Virtual Communications: III  Next Issue

303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsIs your organization a participant in one or more global teams? Are you the owner/sponsor of a global team? Are you managing a global team? Is everything going well, or at least as well as any project goes? Probably not. Many of the troubles people encounter are traceable to the obstacles global teams face when building working professional relationships from afar. Read 303 Tips for Virtual and Global Teams to learn how to make your global and distributed teams sing. Order Now!

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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness, Effective Communication at Work and Virtual and Global Teams for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

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When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
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We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

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