Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Video Chat == Trust

This post is written from the context of remote teams. If you are in the office with your co-workers it's not as applicable.

Everybody instinctively seems to know that when you get in the same room as your co-workers, you get more accomplished in terms of planning & strategy.

Why is that?

You have the same voices that you do on the phone. You can create a group conference call and discuss with your voices just like you do in a room.

But everybody knows it's not the same. In person communication always works better.

But why?

Because eye contact and body language. When you only have voice, you have a small fraction of the data that you do in person. This makes it much harder to get your points across because you're unable to tell if your listeners are understanding, connecting, objecting, etc. Not to mention you don't have nice collaborative things like whiteboards.

But yet people are still resistant to video chats. Video chats allow a much greater percentage of communication data to flow (vs just voice) thus allowing much more productive meetings. But it puts people out of their comfort zone so they would sooner not do it.

This frustrates me (but I do empathize with those who object... more on that in bit).

We are human, people. We connect via eye contact and body language. This creates trust & connection.

Trust. This is probably the most important word for remote teams.

Without trust, a team is dysfunctional.

Why in the world in these days of modern technology would we cut off the most vital means of communication data when we don't have to?

To me, not using video in this modern age of 2016 is equivalent to being in your office with your door shut and talking to a person outside in the hall with just voice. How silly would that be? But yet we refuse to do video because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Bottom line, it's because of fear. We are scared to look someone in the eye via video because it puts us out of our comfort zone. I've been there. There was a time when I was literally freaked to even think about turning on my video. I think I may have broke out in a sweat at times just thinking about it.

But eventually I started trying it. And it was super uncomfortable.

But eventually it got better. After you do this for a while, you'll begin to wonder why in the world you were so resistant.

However don't take my word for it... just google "successful remote teams" and see how many articles mention video chat. It IS a critical part of remote team success.

Conquer your fears. Do video chat with your remote co-workers. Build trust. You'll thank me someday. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Leadership == Communication

A question I've often pondered is "what is leadership"? Is it a state, is it making decisions, is it a title, is it management?

Turns out I don't think it's really fundamentally any of those. One thing I have discovered for certain, you don't need a "leadership" title to be a leader.

If you are reading this, you are a leader in some form. You might be the newest person in your company but you can lead in some way.

When I break down leadership to it's most basic element, I come up with one word.


And really, what is communication? It is information sharing. As a leader, to facilitate communication, you have to ask questions. And then listen... like a lot. You have to deeply absorb what people around you are saying. Once you've done that, you will eventually get to the point where you begin to come up with suggestions and solutions to solving the problems around you.

Leadership is having the audacity to be vulnerable. It means once I've communicated with those around me and I think I have a solution, I'm going to throw my idea out there regardless of what my co-workers think. It means I will allow my "good" idea to be chewed on by the team and turned into something even better (or thrown away).

This is super hard, because when you think you have a good idea, and it gets ripped to shreds, it hurts. But, it's how you get better. You pick yourself up again, rinse and repeat. Eventually something will stick and you will begin to have an impact.

In fact I believe a properly functioning team is when everybody is leading. It means everybody initiates communication and is trying to solve the problems around them.

It's just not possible to lead without communication. If someone "leads" without communication, at best it is merely management.

So if you are still wondering if you are a leader (because you don't have the title), let me ask you... do you have the ability to ask questions? If your answer is yes, than yes you can be a leader.

So get up, get out of your comfort zone and go start asking some questions.

Question, listen, absorb, innovate. That's the leadership cycle. Go do it!