Collaboration is a process of participation through which people, groups and organizations work together to achieve desired results. Starting or sustaining a collaborative journey is exciting, sometimes stressful, and even new for many. Successful collaboration requires focus on the goals of the team and on the development of trusting relationships. These relationships allow people to overcome problems that might arise through the collaborative process. While most of our collaborative tasks are still done in face-to-face meetings, technology has enabled us to collaborate from afar. It has given us the ability to be members of a professional learning community that may include people from around the globe.
Is collaboration on virtual teams as effective as collaborative teams that meet face to face? Dr. Jaclyn Kostner (author of Bridge the Distance) found that virtual teams tended to keep their focus on priorities better than face-to-face teams and, in fact, virtual meetings were frequently shorter; however, the virtual collaborative teams failed more often. One of the reasons for this higher rate of failure, according to Dr. Kostner, is that virtual teams did not develop the relationships that allowed them to work as a team to overcome problems – they did not collaborate in any meaningful way. As organizations move toward using technology to facilitate collaboration among teams that are split by distance what are some ways that teams can collaborate better at a distance? Here are a few tips:
- Don’t multi-task at virtual meetings. Close your email, turn off your alerts and pay attention. The only time an entire virtual team can collaborate is when they are meeting. If you want your team to collaborate and be a team make sure that everyone pays attention and participates in team meetings.
- Meet face to face as often as possible. While the technology tools that enable us to communicate virtually save time and money, there is no better way to develop relationships than face to face. This may not be a possibility for teams that are at long distances apart. Make sure that you do allow some virtual time to get to know your team.
- Create office hours when team members can be reached. Collaboration among team members is an important way to create relationships and overcome the barrier of distance. Because it is so difficult to get anyone live these days, set up hours for each team member when they agree to be available, answer their phones, and take the time to work with the other team member.
Would you like more of MaryEllen's insight? Become a member of GrantGoddess.com and visit the Coach's Corner.