A man will follow your lead till the end of the world, if you let him share the cause. I cannot remember when or where I heard this, but it has been resounding in my head for the past week or so. I think it strikes an essential cord when it comes to successfully managing and developing true excellence from teams, both dispersed and office-based.
Creating a common vision and purpose, one that your teams can make their own, is of ultimate importance if you want commitment, excellence, and perseverance. While this type of commitment is as rare and precious as diamonds, it can be yours with a little planning.This is why I suggest that you take the advice of the fourth century Chinese philosopher, Confucius, and buy some video equipment.
This was true for me when, in 2008, I was heading up the Jabra EMEA Central sales team out of Germany. We were tasked with executing a brand new strategic approach, including new products and value propositions. It was a big change for many of my people who were spread all over EMEA. This was where I felt, first-hand, the power of the 1,600-year-old quote by the visionary Confucius, and it is as valid today as it was back then. He said: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Dictating strategy and policy will (according to Confucius, many a global team manager and myself) cause your wise words and carefully crafted plans to go in one ear and out the other. Adding a couple of hundred PowerPoint slides will make it stick with your otherwise disciplined and professional teams for approximately 21 days before everything goes back to normal. While getting your team to engage with the strategy, hands on and face-to-face, will provide you with the path for success.
Building trust is the keyMy team at the time was comprised of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Arabs, Austrians and Dutch, and face-to-face meetings were just not possible. Yet, we had to break down the barriers and push through. It took some clever team engineering, and I eventually broke it down into four steps:
Get the team together for a virtual meet and greetOnce you are ready to kick off, have a meeting where you share your passion for the strategy. The meeting should include sections where each member of your team gets to speak as long as it takes for everyone to feel as if they have chipped in and have made it their own. Allow plenty of time for team members to get to know each other better, personally and professionally. This meeting is also for getting the ground rules and infrastructure in place.
Create the rules for communication
When time is short and you need results, establishing rules on how and when to communicate is pivotal. Virtual teams benefit from video meetings where everyone meets in close proximity, face-to-face, discussing best practice and obstacles. In this way, everyone will experience that the contextual and emotional cues — such as commitment to the project - will come through quite clearly.
Get the best communication technologies for the job
Collaborative, shared workspaces, social platforms, and multi-point video conferencing will make your and your team’s life easier. When you organize this, make sure that all members of your team have equal access and know how to make the equipment work. Teams will drop technology like hot potatoes if it takes 20 minutes to set up or connect. It is essential for your team to be able to do, share, and get under the skin of the project. Technology will need to be a friend.
Share the leadershipYou do not have to run everything yourself. Don’t fall into the micromanagement pit. Involving others in the leadership team will foster commitment, buy in, and drive. Trust me, you will get much more than you give by doing this. By sharing leadership, you will not only increase commitment but also be even greater at what you do as a leader.
The people who led the EMEA project to success with me are still with the company today. As such intense projects often go, once the job was done, I know that we all felt elated with just the tiniest twinge of regret of no longer being part of the tightly knit project team, and I know they still check in on each other now and then.
The way I feel is that it is all about people and the ability to fuel an existing need for purpose and vision. You can do this with the help of Confucius, because it is not about the glitzy, glamorous features of your technology solution, but rather it is how you connect to, engage with, and commit to the people who use it and how their actions can change the world.