Friends Helping Friends

Every now and then someone needs a helping hand. Sometimes, the ask is big and the answer is difficult. Other times, the ask and answer are both easy. This is such a time.

We are trying to qualify for a $100,000 small business grant from LinkedIn and Chase Bank.  The catch is that we need 250 votes in order to be considered for one of the 20 grants being awarded. We’re on our way to getting those votes, but we need your help.

To help us out, simply click here to vote.

There is no catch, and your information will not be captured; but, you do need a FaceBook account in order for the verification process to know that you are a human and not a robot or my eccentric aunt who has 27 email addresses and was thinking she could vote 27 times (sorry, Auntie.)

Voting ends on June 19, so please vote right now.

Thank you so very much. Let us know how we can help you out someday,

Stefanie, Chris, and the rest of the gang here at Bridging Distance.

P.S. In case you missed it, here’s the link to vote!

Global Village: Signs of Conflict in Your Global Team

By: Sam Heiter and Mary Lou Jurgens

It_Takes_a_Village_image

Working together on a project may take a village, but dealing with conflict definitely takes the whole village. So what do you do when that village is scattered across the globe?

Recognizing conflict in the virtual arena is harder than for an in-person team, but all the more necessary to diagnose. Given the distances between people, misunderstandings proliferate more easily, virtual team members have an increased chance of miscommunicating via methods such as email, and there’s a decreased chance of building trust. Further, by the time a conflict amongst virtual team members manifests itself to the team leader, the root of the problem has a long trail, which has long lain dormant. Such conflict silences valuable opinions on the project at hand, decreases job fulfillment, and hinders productivity.

Within an in-person team, you can immediately sense when someone is being ostracized, even slightly, by the body language and actions of others. There is, however, carryover of these skills to a virtual team setting. For example, in both in-person and virtual meetings, perhaps a certain member isn’t asked to participate with the same frequency as in the past; or when they do speak, other members’ eyes roll or their remarks are met with steely silence. If you are observant and aware that a change in participation habits is a red flag, you can observe that change; but what is the equivalent “virtual eye roll” in a distributed team? The virtual eye roll is highly subtle, and begins with taking note of the way your team typically interacts with one another.

A virtual team leader must be ever vigilant of nascent signs of barriers going up between team members. Signs of virtual ostracism include individuals’ names suddenly being left off of relevant group emails; or suddenly a lot of extra people being added to the “cc” section of direct email to said person.  The action of adding names to the “cc” list often indicates that the sender is putting up a barrier between themselves and the recipient of the email, and is seeking out witnesses to communications that cannot be avoided. The sender may be feeling pressured or intimidated in some way, or simply so frustrated they want to bring others into help.  Changes in emailing patterns is a red flag that virtual leaders need to be aware of, moreso than leaders of traditional teams who have the added advantage of direct observation.

As barriers develop, people tend to create new or “secret” communication paths to circumvent direct interaction with whomever this barrier is with. This could take the form of an email thread or discussion, about which the rest of the team simply isn’t informed; or when questions are asked about someone’s work indirectly instead of asking them directly. This is a red flag that often takes the village to recognize as the leader may not be privy to these paths.  It is important, however, especially as decisions are made without including all the expected and relevant participants. 

In virtual meetings, some signs of barriers are exactly the same as in face-to-face meetings — people aren’t called on as frequently as the situation warrants, or as frequently as they used to be. When the person in question finally does offer an opinion, they may be interrupted, ignored, or talked over. On the other side of the barrier, signs exist in the form of the ostrasized person talking more or less in a meeting — they may feel compelled to get everything out in a rush, or to withdraw from participating. Their tone of voice often changes, and those changes depend on the personality behind them. Some people become less confidant and softer, more questioning in tone; other become more aggressive or sarcastic. While changes in tone are relatively easy to pick up on, the tricky part in a virtual meeting is to identify when the changes in participation are deliberate and when they are due to technology. A savvy virtual leader is aware of when technology difficulties are at fault, and when the pattern of behavior is different enough to raise a red flag, and to investigate further.

Technology increases the difficulty of recognizing conflict between virtual teammates. Beyond virtual meetings, technology issues may be used to cover up sub-par work behaviors created by someone experiencing conflict; thus, a disaffected member many not follow through on commitments or deadlinesWhile we all experience technology glitches and setbacks, if these problems are cited as an excuse disproportionately often, it may be an indication of disengagement due to a conflict-driven barrier going up. 

Finally, communication is the lifeblood of any virtual team. Any communication quiet-down—or “going dark”—can be a death knell to team cohesiveness and therefore productivity. The astute virtual leader must know how to interpret people’s silence. Is silence due to deep concentration — someone immersing themselves in their task — or is it something else? Whatever the root cause, silence must be heard and understood by both the leader and the team as a whole.

In a high functioning virtual team, a team leader’s role can’t be that of a micro-manager. To combat conflict proactively, a team leader must foster a working environment that encourages open dialogue on points of disagreement; and therefore, quashes unnecessary conflict before it can take hold. Leaders must not only learn to recognize these signs themselves, but talk openly about them with the entire team. Through careful observation, the virtual leader and the virtual team will become aware of the warning signs of conflict and be better able to investigate early to determine whether there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Question for readers: What are signs of barriers in your virtual team? What did you do to overcome?

 

 

 

Bridging Conflict in Global Teams

tug of war

Virtual Team Leadership is Different

By: Sam Heiter, Mary Lou Jurgens, Stefanie Heiter

Is a virtual conflict still a conflict? If it is only there virtually it is easier to ignore. Ignoring virtual conflict, however, makes it all the more insidious and more necessary for leaders to recognize and address.  Conflict in any team decreases morale but on a virtual team, it also leads to barriers between teammates and these barriers lead to lowered productivity. Our globalized world has led to many advances but the increased presence of virtual work can also lead to greater potential conflict among team members.  Today’s leader must understand the fundamental differences between leading a traditional team and leading a virtual team and adjust their methods accordingly.

Managing conflict is especially difficult for virtual teams because of the differences in geography, culture, and context. Differences in culture and the problems brought on by physical distance between team members compounds the problems teams already face.  For example, communication is inherently less frequent and less effective across large distances, and therefore, team relationships form weaker ties. As technology often dehumanizes relationships, leaders of virtual teams must actively work to re-humanize them, and help team members to overcome the barriers distance puts up.communication

When team members are scattered across many different time zones it makes synchronous discussions significantly more difficult, as everyone has their own “normal” office hours that frequently don’t match up with others’.  More importantly, however, distance removes a sense of shared context so team members are less aware of issues their coworkers are having.  While it is far easier to ignore this distance and the subsequent barriers, successful virtual leaders know that communication efforts need to be redoubled and team members need to be encouraged to spend the time to get to know their virtual teammates.

What is context? Context is the extent to which the team environment and structure supports the “how” of working together. It includes having the right people on the team; clarifying roles; trust; shared sense of vision; and purposeful inclusion of every team member. Context is the glue that holds every kind of team together, and without which, a virtual team cannot sustain alignment or productivity. As in-person team often shares and understands its fundamental context on a subconscious level. The process of osmosis enables people to adjust their own work and vision according to the work and vision of the people around them. A shared context is not possible on a virtual team without deliberate and purposeful attention from the leader.

Context and conflict are partners in crime in the virtual team setting.

An astute virtual leader must approach virtual leadership differently. Virtual team members need to be able to articulate their specific roles and need to stay formally aligned. Leaders must pay attention because conflict is not necessarily brought to attention in a virtual environment. Once a conflict does manifest itself the underlying causes will have been festering long before the outbreak.

When conflict does rather inevitably arise and come to the attention of the leader there is a three-fold approach towards conflict resolution, which has worked for our leadership clients in the past: First, perform triage: assess the problems and determine which ones take priority and actions to resolve it. Second, analyze the current conflict and establish a “lessons learned.” What went wrong in the first place? What have we learned from this? Third, after the underlying problems are understood, steps can be taken to address what can be done better in the future to mitigate conflict. For example, if your team was out of alignment because each person had a different vision of what the end-goal was, establish frequent check-in times to be sure that everyone shares the same vision as time goes on.

Virtual teams, when properly led, can feel just as close as the next office away, but leaders must be attentive to potential points of conflict. Good virtual leaders need to adjust their methods to managing the sometimes sensitive needs of a virtual team.

Next week we’ll take a closer look at recognizing conflict in virtual teams.

Research Opportunity for Virtual leaders and virtual workers:  Please take a minute to help us out by taking our super-short survey (pinky promise — it’s short!)!

 

Finally, question for Readers: What are your experiences with conflict within the virtual team setting?

Getting Off Your Virtual Island

noman_is_island

Creating the “Human Moment” in Virtual Teams

As the poet, John Donne wrote, “no man is an island… every man is a part of the main.”  If you are part of a virtual team, you likely know the feeling of being an island adrift within your organization.

Virtual teams are everywhere.  Technology makes it possible for us to work together from wherever we are located.  Corporations benefit from hiring specific talent, regardless of geography.

But some things get lost in this “virtual environment.”  Increasingly, we are becoming islands as we enter into the virtual work force; or become part of a virtual team.

One of the usual first casualties of a virtual team is the “human connection” with one another.  We see our teammates’ names in our inboxes, we may hear and see them at our audio and video meetings, but too often, they remain disconnected and somehow “not real” to us.  We don’t really know them, and they don’t really know us. This lack of human connection hinders creativity, innovation, satisfaction, and performance — all the things critical to achieving professional success.

Traditionally,  co-located teams fostered “water cooler moments” (informal communications) through careful design — communal break rooms; couches; hanging out after work; going for lunch; and in those early-meeting moments before things got down to business.

The challenge becomes — how do we transpose that same purposeful design into the virtual workplace? What, exactly, is needed from leadership, to encourage and foster the human connection in virtual teams?  Read on!

Thoughtful Virtual Design that Creates the “Human Moment”

informal_communication

1.  Encourage Teammates to Communicate Spontaneously

This requires everyone being aware of each other’s availability.  The most successful type of spontaneous conversation are through some form of instant messaging.  Every platform has some kind of team chat function, even though you may have to dig to find it.  Set everyone up.  Encourage people to share their coffee cups, the view from their windows, the weather, their breakfast, etc.. Research indicates that as virtual teams develop patterns of communication, new communicative behavior emerges that often exceeds the value of face to face communications.

2.  It Must be Easy to Use

“Behavioral cost” must be low.  This is just a fancy way of saying “the amount of effort required to initiate and conduct” a conversation must be minimal in order for people to keep doing it.  Let’s just say it needs to be easy or people won’t use it.

3.  Leverage Technology’s Uniqueness

People on virtual teams will initiate conversation regardless of the receiver’s ability to respond.  Unlike face to face, where people use visual cues to know whether to initiate or not, technology makes starting a conversation easier.  Just now, I broadcast a “Happy Thursday” across my virtual team chat.. we will see who responds!

As unlikely as it sounds, document sharing has proven to be helpful in both initiating and maintaining virtual conversations. I think it just gives everyone “permission” to chat about something that is centered on a task, with acceptable digressions into chit chat.

4. Give Permission

The most important factor to creating and maintaining that human connection in our technology-laden world is the express “permission” by leadership for everyone to take the time to engage with one another in non-task related conversation.

Encourage your team, take the reins in initiating essential human moments between yourself and your team, and your team with one another. Watch as your virtual team gels together and establishes behaviors that lead to increased team performance and satisfaction. Be the bridge that connects your islands.

bridge_islands

 

Question for readers:  Do you feel comfortable engaging in informal conversation with your virtual teammates? Why or why not?

Stop Wasting My Time!

simplify meetings

Simplify Your Meetings

Meetings waste time.  This is not an opinion, this is a fact.  The statistics for the average knowledge worker in the US are shocking:

  • 62 meetings / month
  • 50% of time wasted in each one
  • 31 hours of productivity time per month per person
  • 4 working days wasted per month, per person.

Look at your team.  Look at your own schedule.  Ouch.  How do we break this cycle of loss? The obvious advice of simply “having less meetings” and encouraging people to work independently is a good start, but meetings are inevitable in most organizations.

Here’s how to take the next step to turn those inevitable meetings into something meaningful, productive worthwhile.

Invite the Right People – and Only the Right People

Ask Yourself:  Who needs to be involved?

Create a list of the people who are key to the task at hand (not anyone who is simply interested or to whom the task is important — just those who are critical).   Trust us — you aren’t going to offend someone for not inviting them to a meeting they don’t belong at.  You are doing them a favor by not wasting their time.  And, incidentally, you will have a better meeting without them. (If they are offended, then you have a different sort of problem that needs your leadership direction.)

Refine Your List:  Go through it again with the goal of simplifying and reducing further.

Ask:  who will have an active role in this meeting? Who is essential to the purpose of the meeting?  And that’s it.  There’s your list.  Stick to it and see how productivity and creativity soars when small groups of the right people work together (read this compelling story of one person’s experience with meetings at Apple).

Make “OPTIONAL” optional!

Be sure people know that “TO” means come and “OPTIONAL” means it’s optional.  Actually optional.  As in, you aren’t needed in the meeting, but maybe you need to know that the meeting is happening, or you just need the results, not the process of getting the result. Feel free to opt out without so much as a single stink-eye from anyone.

Communicate expectations.

In addition to understanding why YOU want each person at the meeting, make sure that THEY know why they are coming & what you expect them to contribute.

Keep your meetings small.  Each person you add decreases the effectiveness of your meeting and the overall productivity of your team and organization.  Small groups will accomplish greater things when they aren’t bogged down by those that don’t belong.  And, those that don’t belong at your meeting belong somewhere else where they are essential.

Photo credit:  LeadershipFreak
What are your experiences with inviting fewer people to meetings or attending meetings that you simply didn’t beong at?

Virtual Team Fairness

fairness

Virtual Teams — The Future of Work

We work in a rapidly evolving environment.  Gone are the days in which everyone worked within the same building; gathered around the same whiteboard; and decided important things around the water cooler.

Today, nearly all knowledge-based workforces span the globe.

It is a tragic misstep to believe that simply replacing traditional in-person communications with equally synchronous virtual communications will yield the same results.  The challenge for leadership is to resist the old, yet comfortable and familiar ways of leading and assessing global teams.  Methods that rely heavily upon subjective, anecdotal, and observational means simply don’t work across distance.

There are aspects of your virtual team that are undoubtedly unique.  Each company, each industry, each team develops in its own quirky way.  Generally speaking, however, our experience has shown us that there are several key areas in which virtual team management commonly differs from in-house teams.  We’ll share one of them here:

Perception of Fairness Between Virtual and in-house Teams

Most teams are a blend of people located with you and those located remotely.  Our experience has shown time and time again that those far away perceive a preference for those located with the leader.  There may or may not be an actual preference, but they will think there is, and that’s an insidious feeling that you need to address.

Leaders often respond with a knee-jerk denial of this possibility.  They would “know” if their team felt dissatisfied.  In the past, that might be true — you would be able to look around the room and sense the unease within your team.  Short of having some  superhero ability that allows you to peek into your virtual team’s office when the cameras are off, you probably don’t know.

What you can do

1.  Make all meetings virtualglobal_meeting

Even for those located with you!  Having all attendees participating in the same way sends a subtle, but powerful message, that leadership holds all “teams” in equal standing, regardless of location.  Participating virtually when others are co-located is like watching a party through a window. It looks great and you feel left out.

2.  Send thanks to your team

Thanksgiving is a  uniquely North American holiday, but everyone appreciates being recognized for their contributions, and this holiday is a perfect example of an opportunity to do so, regardless of which part of the globe your team resides in.

Don’t limit this to your virtual team.  Thank everyone who works for you.  You will be amazed at how powerful this is for you as a leader and for all of those who work for you.

3. Thipastriesnk of your virtual team at holiday time

If you are planning an office holiday party, ask yourself how you could include the remote team.  Some possibilities:

    • Send every member of the virtual team a gift certificate to take their family out to dinner.
    • Provide a budget for a virtual team holiday party and designate someone local to create a party that is on par with your own.

4. Every now and then, send muffins

Or bagels, or donuts, or anything yummy to say “good morning, thinking of you.”  Everyone loves it when someone else brings in the decadent breakfast goodies.  Be that someone.

 

Question for readers:  What do you do to ensure your virtual team members feel included?

Do You Have 8 Minutes?

Do you want a chance to win money?

If you work remotely — away from your main office — at least two days a week, then you are eligible to take our survey and enter to win!

Win_instant_cash_sweepstakes

Here’s the Deal:

We’ve been developing an online assessment to help telecommuters know what their strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to their telecommuting work habits.  But, we need a LOT of real-world people to take the survey so we can “test” the survey itself.  We’re calling it the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA).

The more the merrier! our Industrial Organization experts tell us that the more people we can get to take the survey, the better the survey will be.  So, if you know of any telecommuters, feel free to forward this email along.

Thank you for your consideration.  We appreciate your time.

Your completed survey is your entry to win the $100 cash prize.

Please note, sometimes the Survey Monkey link works best when cut and pasted directly into a browser.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TFAblog

Thank you so much.  

The TFA development team

Bridging Distance

The fine print:

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE THE CHANCES OF WINNING.
1. Eligibility: Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to those who complete the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA) and who are 18 as of the date of entry. The sweepstakes is only open to legal residents of  the United States and is void where prohibited by law. Employees of Bridging Distance (the “Sponsor”) their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, suppliers and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.
2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, you agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and you represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements set forth herein. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of Bridging Distance, as final and binding as it relates to the content. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.
 
3. Sweepstakes Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on or about October 15, 2014 and ending Nov. 14, 2014. All online entries must be received by Nov. 14, 2014 11:59PM EST.
4. How to Enter: The Sweepstakes must be entered by submitting an completed TFA survey entry using the online form provided on this Sweepstakes email. The entry must fulfill all sweepstakes requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are not complete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance. You may enter only once and you must fill in the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If you use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance.
 
5. Prizes: Winner will receive $100. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by the Sponsor. No other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by winners is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for Bridging Distance to use winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.
6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
 
7. Winner selection and notification: Winners of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing under the supervision of the Sponsor. Winners will be notified via email to the email address they entered the Sweepstakes with within five (5) days following the winner selection. Bridging Distance shall have no liability for a winner’s failure to receive notices due to winners’ spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for winners’ provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If the selected winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 15 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and releases as required, prize may be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.
 
The receipt by winner of the prize offered in this Sweepstakes is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal and state laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY ANY WINNER (AT SPONSOR’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN SUCH WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE SWEEPSTAKES AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.
 
8. Rights Granted by you: By entering this content you understand that Bridging Distance, anyone acting on behalf of Bridging Distance, or its respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right, where permitted by law, without any further notice, review or consent to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use, worldwide in any media now known or hereafter in perpetuity and throughout the World, your entry, including, without limitation, the entry and winner’s name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image or statements about the Sweepstakes, and biographical information as news, publicity or information and for trade, advertising, public relations and promotional purposes without any further compensation.
9. Terms:Bridging Distance reserves the right, in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes should (in its sole discretion) a virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In such case, Bridging Distance may select the recipients from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by Bridging Distance. Bridging Distance reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes or website or violates these Terms & Conditions.
Bridging Distance has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Sweepstakes, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to; multiple entries from the same user from different IP addresses; multiple entries from the same computer in excess of that allowed by sweepstakes rules; or the use of bots, macros or scripts or other technical means for entering.
Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, Bridging Distance reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.By entering the Sweepstakes you agree to receive email newsletters periodically from Bridging Distance. You can opt-out of receiving this communication at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the newsletter.
10. Limitation of Liability: By entering you agree to release and hold harmless Bridging Distance and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers and directors from any liability, illness, injury, death, loss, litigation, claim or damage that may occur, directly or indirectly, whether caused by negligence or not, from (i) such entrant’s participation in the sweepstakes and/or his/her acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize or any portion thereof, (ii) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunctioning of any computer, cable, network, hardware or software; (iii) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (iv) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (v) electronic or human error which may occur in the administration of the Promotion or the processing of entries.
11. Disputes:THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF United States AND Massachusetts, WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Sweepstakes, participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Massachusetts having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. costs associated with entering this Sweepstakes), and participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
12. Privacy Policy:  Information submitted with an entry is subject to the Privacy Policy stated on the Bridging Distance Web Site.
13. Winners List: To obtain a copy of the winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, mail your request along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA.Requests must be received no later than Nov. 20, 2014.
14. Sponsor:  The Sponsor of the Sweepstakes is Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA .

An Exciting Time

survey

Final Validation of our upcoming Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA)

 

Do you work remotely — away from your main office — at least two days a week?

If so, and you have 10 – 15 minutes, we’d politely ask that you help us out.  We get that your time is valuable, so we are offering a cash prize for one lucky person who does help us out (also our Industrial Psychology experts tell us that a prize will motivate you!)

As experts in the field of virtual work, we recognize the increased importance of telecommuting in today’s organizations.

For the past two years, we’ve been developing an online assessment tool that evaluates telecommuting work habits.  This tool — the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA) uncovers weaknesses and strengths to help you become better at working remotely.

Here’s where you come in (and how you can win a cash prize):

As we near completion of our final validation cycle, we are in need of real-world data from real-world telecommuters such as yourself.

We would greatly appreciate it if you would take the next 10 – 15 minutes to complete the TFA and helps us gather that real-world data.

Your completed survey is your entry to win the $100 cash prize.

Please note, sometimes the Survey Monkey link works best when cut and pasted directly into a browser.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TFAblog

 

Thank you so much.  

The TFA development team

Bridging Distance

The fine print:

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE THE CHANCES OF WINNING.
1. Eligibility: Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to those who complete the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA) and who are 18 as of the date of entry. The sweepstakes is only open to legal residents of  the United States and is void where prohibited by law. Employees of Bridging Distance (the “Sponsor”) their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, suppliers and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.
2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, you agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and you represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements set forth herein. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of Bridging Distance, as final and binding as it relates to the content. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.
 
3. Sweepstakes Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on or about October 15, 2014 and ending Nov. 14, 2014. All online entries must be received by Nov. 14, 2014 11:59PM EST.
4. How to Enter: The Sweepstakes must be entered by submitting an completed TFA survey entry using the online form provided on this Sweepstakes email. The entry must fulfill all sweepstakes requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are not complete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance. You may enter only once and you must fill in the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If you use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance.
 
5. Prizes: Winner will receive $100. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by the Sponsor. No other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by winners is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for Bridging Distance to use winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.
6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
 
7. Winner selection and notification: Winners of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing under the supervision of the Sponsor. Winners will be notified via email to the email address they entered the Sweepstakes with within five (5) days following the winner selection. Bridging Distance shall have no liability for a winner’s failure to receive notices due to winners’ spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for winners’ provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If the selected winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 15 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and releases as required, prize may be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.
 
The receipt by winner of the prize offered in this Sweepstakes is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal and state laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY ANY WINNER (AT SPONSOR’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN SUCH WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE SWEEPSTAKES AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.
 
8. Rights Granted by you: By entering this content you understand that Bridging Distance, anyone acting on behalf of Bridging Distance, or its respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right, where permitted by law, without any further notice, review or consent to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use, worldwide in any media now known or hereafter in perpetuity and throughout the World, your entry, including, without limitation, the entry and winner’s name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image or statements about the Sweepstakes, and biographical information as news, publicity or information and for trade, advertising, public relations and promotional purposes without any further compensation.
9. Terms:Bridging Distance reserves the right, in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes should (in its sole discretion) a virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In such case, Bridging Distance may select the recipients from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by Bridging Distance. Bridging Distance reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes or website or violates these Terms & Conditions.
Bridging Distance has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Sweepstakes, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to; multiple entries from the same user from different IP addresses; multiple entries from the same computer in excess of that allowed by sweepstakes rules; or the use of bots, macros or scripts or other technical means for entering.
Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, Bridging Distance reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.By entering the Sweepstakes you agree to receive email newsletters periodically from Bridging Distance. You can opt-out of receiving this communication at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the newsletter.
10. Limitation of Liability: By entering you agree to release and hold harmless Bridging Distance and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers and directors from any liability, illness, injury, death, loss, litigation, claim or damage that may occur, directly or indirectly, whether caused by negligence or not, from (i) such entrant’s participation in the sweepstakes and/or his/her acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize or any portion thereof, (ii) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunctioning of any computer, cable, network, hardware or software; (iii) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (iv) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (v) electronic or human error which may occur in the administration of the Promotion or the processing of entries.
11. Disputes:THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF United States AND Massachusetts, WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Sweepstakes, participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Massachusetts having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. costs associated with entering this Sweepstakes), and participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
12. Privacy Policy:  Information submitted with an entry is subject to the Privacy Policy stated on the Bridging Distance Web Site.
13. Winners List: To obtain a copy of the winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, mail your request along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA.Requests must be received no later than Nov. 20, 2014.
14. Sponsor:  The Sponsor of the Sweepstakes is Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA .

 

It’s All About Trust

3 Tips to Develop Trust in Your Virtual Team

Trust in the linchpin in our lives (personal & professional, but we’ll stick to professional here).

But let’s face it – “trust” is hard for most people to quantitatively define, and even harder to consciously improve or develop.  But there is a way.

If we are trusted and valued at work and trust and value others, then we, and our team, stand a greater chance at success.  If we are not trusted, if we are distrustful of others, productivity is derailed and the end-product, whatever it is, suffers.

Trust within a virtual team has the added hurdle of distance.

When we are physically close to others, trust — or mistrust — develops organically.  We watch, we interact, we make eye contact, we laugh, we connect.  (This is relational trust, what most of us think of when we stop to think about trust at all).

When we are separated by distance, the primary way to develop trust comes from the work we produce and the work others produce.  It comes from a harmony between the words we communicate and the actions that follow.  Trust develops as the work unfolds and others deliver to us what we need, and we deliver the same to them. (This is transactional trust – trusting someone to do something).

This transactional trust sounds pretty straight forward, but “receiving” and “sending” work products can get tricky, unless expectations have been clearly set.

Consider — you send a question to a teammate via email and you expect an answer that day.  Your teammate thinks that if you needed an answer that day, you would’ve called, so your email gets left for the next day.  Trust is breaking, not building.

Here are three proven ways to lay the groundwork for developing trust in virtual teams, and to nudge that needle toward a more trusting and productive team:

1. Establish Rules of Engagement

With your team, establish expectations and team “norms” on the how of communications — how will your team prioritize communications — are email responses expected within 24 hours?  48?  Decide as a team.  Do you prefer instant messaging or texting or phone calls?  Establishing expectations that everyone has a say in will develop trust.

2. Make Your Reward System Transparent (we’ll assume its already fair)

In virtual teams, the reward system takes on additional importance as virtual team members often feel anonymous and isolated from their virtual teammates.  These feelings of anonymity and isolation lead to demotivation and mistrust.

One clear way to counteract these feelings is to establish a transparent and fair reward system that provides open acknowledgment  for people’s time and effort (in addition to their ultimate contribution to the project).  Please note — having a fair reward system isn’t enough for a virtual team — according to a recent, large-scale study, it must be transparent to be a motivating and trust-building factor.

3.  Share Leadership

A study of virtual teams in one Fortune 500 IT organization revealed that high-trust virtual teams allow the person with the most knowledge to lead the others.  This person changes as the project goes through different development stages.  This shifting and sharing of power sends a powerful message of trust and allows each person to demonstrate and share their expertise.  Of course, there still needs to be an overall leader, but one who isn’t grounded in traditional “top down” leadership.

Establishing a successful virtual team takes deliberate action.  Giving everyone an assignment, sending them on their way, and “hoping for the best” isn’t setting yourself up for success.  Teams cannot function without trust.  We all know this.  Be proactive in your leadership.  Be deliberate, and set the proper groundwork which will enable trust to develop.

It’s all about trust.

Question for readers:  Think about virtual teams that you have been on – ones that worked and ones that didn’t.  What was the difference?

Meeting-itis

Meeting-itis

A Syndrome of Pain & Discomfort Caused by Extensive Overuse of Meetings

Current research shows what we all know to be true — we waste too much time in meetings!

“That was a great meeting”  said no one ever in corporate America.

Meeting-itis is our lighthearted look at this “illness” that pervades our workplaces.

Follow our infographic to help reduce the pain of Meetingitis in your workplace (hang in there, its been loading slowly today):

 

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