Here's Part III of my guidelines for communications in virtual teams. See "Virtual Communications: II," Point Lookout for February 2, 2005, for more.
- Don't give the time or date in voicemail
- Most systems already provide the day, date, and time for messages. Why duplicate it? And if you're in a different day and time yourself, you could just confuse the recipient.
- Give your phone number twice
- For voicemail messages, supply your phone number not only near the beginning, but also at the end.
- If using a desk or wall phone, press the button to hang up
- Replacing the handset to hang up creates a clattering sound that can be irritating in voicemail.
- Eating, drinking, and chewing gum are no-nos on the phone
- Whether live or in voicemail, avoid these activities. Even when you're muted, you never know when you'll need to speak.
- Sit up straight or stand when you're on the phone
- Sit up straight
when you're on the phone.
You need the full power
and nuance of your voice.
- Slouching or lying down interferes with full use of your lungs and diaphragm. You need the full power and nuance of your voice.
- Learn how to use your voicemail system
- Learn how to skip, skip-with-erase, move to mailbox, reply-immediate, pause, repeat, transfer to email, forward, forward with preface, forward to list, sort by priority, and whatever else your system offers.
- Learn the remote commands too
- If you call into your office system to pick up messages, learn the most useful commands. And carry them on a wallet card.
- Customize your outgoing message
- If you know you'll be returning at a specific time, record an outgoing message that tells callers when to call back. This can really cut down on your voicemail.
- Consider calling someone's voicemail directly
- Often, you don't really need to speak to the recipient live. If a voicemail will do, call voicemail directly.
- Suspend interpretation of silences
- If someone doesn't respond to a message — email or voice — check whether the message was received. Going ballistic is usually a bad idea, especially when based on a misinterpretation of silence.
- Always confirm — don't rely on silence
- Never leave a message of the form "I'll let you know if X condition is satisfied, otherwise execute Y." Always confirm either way, because messages don't always arrive.
- Slow down your "offense" response
- In face-to-face communications, we use body language, facial expression, and tone of voice to adjust our communications and our interpretations, and this keeps us out of trouble. By email and phone, where these adjustments are problematic or impossible, we're more likely to offend and to feel offended. Slow down and ask for elaboration. Breathe more.
Most important, express appreciations verbally, publicly, and often. In person, we smile, we nod, we backslap, and any number of other things that express approval non-verbally. Remotely, these gestures are unavailable to us, so when we want to encourage each other, or express approval, we have to say things verbally that seem unnatural, artificial, or forced. It takes practice. Get started today. Top Next Issue
Is 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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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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By upgrading — and subsidizing — food service, these companies can reduce turnover and improve
- FedEx, Flocks, and Frames of Reference
- Your point of view — or reference frame — affects what you see, and how you experience the
world around you. By choosing a reference frame consciously, you can see things differently, and open
a universe of new choices.
- Organizing a Barn Raising
- Once you find a task that you can tackle as a "barn raising," your work is just beginning.
Planning and organizing the work is in many ways the hard part.
- The Questions Not Asked
- Often, the path to forward progress is open and waiting, but we don't recognize it, or we convince ourselves
it isn't there. Learning to see what we believe isn't there is difficult. Here are some reasons why.
- Twenty-Three Thoughts
- Sometimes we get so focused on the immediate problem that we lose sight of the larger questions. Here
are twenty-three thoughts to help you focus on what really counts.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.