Author Archives: Lisa Avvocato

The New Science of Building Great Teams

June 19th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Collaboration | Tips & Tricks - (0 Comments)

A few weeks ago we discussed the characteristics of high performance teams; ranging from member diversity to conflict resolution skills. But how do you ensure the success of a team? Unfortunately, achieving the level of cohesion required to have a high performance team seems to depend more on luck than anything else.

Well, maybe not. A new study from Alex “Sandy” Pentland suggests that building great teams is more of a science than an art. In his HBR webinar, The New Science of Building Great Teams, he discusses several points; including how different communication patterns enhance team creativity and productivity. If you have an hour to invest, this video is well worth the time.

The key take away is how we communicate is more important that what we communicate.

Pentland states that communication patterns; or the manner in which teams communicate, are actually the most important predictor of a team’s success. The best teams produce a “buzz” that is noticeable but indefinable. So what constitutes as a “buzz-worthy” communication pattern?

Participants have high energy, they continually converse with each other and there is little to no dead space between conversations. Side bar conversations coincide with, but do not detract from, the main group discussion. All participants are actively engaged in discussions; this is shown through both verbal and nonverbal cues, such as nodding along or interjecting short thoughts like really or tell me more. There is an equal contribution rate from all members of the team. Every team member communicates with every other team member; there is not one or two people who dominate conversation.

Finally, team members have a high social intelligence. Essentially, they think about what other people are thinking and are able to successfully navigate complex social situations and environments. This also means that team members have high exploration tendencies; meaning they frequently interact with others outside of their immediate team or work group.

What does this mean for remote work teams?

According to Pentland, “The most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. E-mail and texting are the least valuable.” Therefore, organizations that rely heavily on remote work teams should invest in some type of visual collaboration or unified communications platform. Video helps remote teams establish the trust factor required for high energy, high engagement conversations. Communicating over email or virtual discussion boards can get complicated and frustrating for participants; thereby limiting their creativity and productivity.

What’s even better is that cloud solutions make visual collaboration even more attainable. Gone are the days where organizations have to invest heavily in hardware or software. UC solutions allow organizations to simply purchase a license and users can be up and running in a matter of minutes.

Building a great team can be incredibly challenging. However, when the right team does come together it can accomplish things far greater than ever imagined.

Cloud video conferencing providers are popping up everywhere, each one promising the best service with the best features. Comparing all of the different offerings can become quite overwhelming. How do you determine which company is the best fit for your organization? Here are a few things to help narrow down the options:

Expertise: Video environments consist of several different components; endpoints, infrastructure, desktop software clients, tablets and complete audio visual integrated rooms. Look for service provider with a wide range of expertise which allows them to assist with all aspects of your video environment. This eliminates the frustrating finger-pointing when you are having an issue with one of the components.

Adaptability: An organization’s initial video needs typically differ significantly from its future video needs; therefore, select a video service provider that has a wide range of offerings. This helps build a comprehensive video environment and enables the solution to adapt to an organization’s changing needs.

Experience: The best type of experience comes from running a true production environment for a customer. A service provider might have a strong background in monitoring network activity and hardware, but have they managed the day-to-day operations of a corporation’s video environment?

Security: Sensitive data is continuously transmitted during video meetings; therefore, a service provider’s security measures are paramount to ensure this data is not intercepted. The network should be encrypted in addition to containing firewalls. Furthermore, non-disclosure agreements should accompany any comprehensive managed video service.

Attitude: Most likely, you will have a very close relationship with your video service provider; therefore, selecting a company with a customer oriented attitude is important. The best service providers realize that every organizations needs are different and will customize their offerings to best fit their needs.

While only you can determine which service provider is right for your organization; these tips can help provide a foundation for the selection process.

Hand Gestures Can Take A Video Call Down

June 12th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Telepresence | Tips & Tricks - (0 Comments)

Video conferencing technology crosses geographical boundaries and connects participants all over the world with the click of a button. Many collaboration sessions with peers are informal gatherings where different ideas and concepts are discussed. However, what is perceived as a normal hand gesture in one country may be completely offensive in another. Colleagues should be mindful of their hand gestures during international meetings and specifically avoid the gestures below that have multiple meanings.

A-Okay
In the US and UK this gestures is often used to signify things are “a-okay” or absolutely fine but in Japan it means money or coins. This can become quite confusing to your Japanese counterparts when they ask you a question and you respond with coins. In a few European countries, such as France, this gesture means ‘zero’ and by responding to an idea with it you are essentially saying their idea is useless which can be quite insulting. Far worse, in Brazil and Germany the term is downright vulgar. 

Thumbs Up
In Western cultures this is a sign of approval or a job well done or that you are good to go; however, in Latin America and the Middle East it is one of the biggest insults you can give. So when your Latin American colleague asks if you can hear him now, it’s best to respond verbally instead of simply giving the thumbs up sign. 

Stop
Meetings sometimes get out of control with multiple people talking at the same time. To get everyone’s attention the meeting leader may hold up his hand to signify stop; however, he will really be telling his Greek counterparts to go see the devil.   

V-Sign
Many people use this sign to refer to the number two but in the UK or Australia it is the equivalent of telling someone where to go. Be wary of using hand gestures to signify numbers to avoid offending colleagues and keep meetings on track. 

There are a lot of different cultures in the world and each has their own way of expressing feelings through body language. Gestures that may seem harmless can be deeply offensive to another culture so before meeting with international clients or colleagues it may behoove you to brush up on their culture to avoid any faux pas.

The Mobility Challenge

June 11th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Telepresence | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Video conferencing with anyone, from anywhere, on any device is becoming a major trend. Users love the flexibility of being able to join from their PC at home instead of trekking into the office conference room. Similarly, the ability to join a video call while taking the ferry back home or even an extremely important client meeting while on vacation not only makes employees more productive but helps contribute to a better work/life balance.

But can you really join a video conference from anywhere?

For personal use – absolutely; because no one really minds a choppy signal that fades in and out or the oddly dressed fellow in the background. The conversations are more casual and participants are simply so excited to actually “see” each other that the importance of high quality communications dissipates.

However, for business use, the answer is not really. The quality of communications plays a significant role in business video and a signal that fades in and out can be extremely frustrating. As a result, mobile video becomes a challenge in many business cases due to a lack of consistent internet quality.

In many public places, such as hotels and airports, the WiFi signal is unpredictable; resulting in poor quality and lack of a consistent experience. Furthermore, restricted 3G and 4G networks are inconsistent in their coverage (4G in some metropolitan areas, 3G in outlying area), making high quality video on the go extremely difficult.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use mobile video ever again; it simply means be careful. Be wary of joining a video meeting from a new location and make a few test calls before committing to join a business meeting over video. If the quality is inconsistent, perhaps it’s better to join the call over audio.

Prevent Imposter Interviews with Video

June 8th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Video Conferencing - (1 Comments)

You can pay people to do pretty much anything nowadays; from landscaping and housekeeping to filing your taxes and even interviewing.

Wait, interviewing?  How is that even possible?

Think about it, the first round of interviews are usually done over the telephone by the recruiting or HR team.  The whole purpose is to weed out candidates so it’s typically very difficult to differentiate yourself. But, candidates know they must find a way in order to land that elusive face-to-face interview where they can win the job with their stunning personality and great interpersonal skills.

To gain an initial advantage, some candidates are paying imposters to perform the preliminary phone interview.  These people answer initial questions and explain “their” background based on the candidate’s resume.  Since they typically have significant interview experience, they are extremely polished with their answers and know how to differentiate themselves.  Unfortunately, due to sheer volume, it is extremely difficult to determine if a second round candidate is the same candidate that was on the phone.

How can this be prevented?

Well for starters, companies can begin replacing the initial phone interview with video interviews; because let’s face it, it’s pretty obvious when the candidate who shows up looks completely different from the person originally interviewed.  Cloud technology and desktop video applications not only make it possible but extremely easy to interview candidates over video.  Interoperability is a thing of the past; organizations can connect with candidates anytime, anywhere, using any combination of devices.

If video simply isn’t possible, ask the interviewee a few questions that cannot be obtained by looking at their resume.  Questions should focus on specific instances; such as a time they used their technical skills to complete a difficult project.  Not only are specific situations more difficult to forge answers to; they can easily be referenced and validated during the second interview.

If all else fails, record each phone interview and then do a voice comparison when the candidate comes to interview in person.  Although, it’s hard to imagine that option would be simpler than switching to video…but hey crazier things have happened!