I spent my childhood in St. Louis, MO and by the time I graduated high school I was ready to leave. I decided to go to college 1200 miles away in Boston and eventually moved to New York where I’ve finally settled down. Now, my best friends and I are all scattered across the country – Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Washington, DC. We went from seeing each other every day to only during the summers and holidays and now it’s been a few years since we’ve all gotten together as a group.

Last year we were talking about getting a group trip together but schedules just never seem coordinate properly and trying to agree on a central location was practically impossible. As we continued through our crazy lives I couldn’t help but miss those crazy slumber parties and wondered how we can stay in touch better.

Then one day, while talking to my friend it hit me, why don’t we start a book club over video chat?  Shortly thereafter the most amazing idea was created.

Wine Wednesdays! One part book club, two parts happy hour, and six parts great laughs and good conversation.

Since we are all avid readers, we selected a fun book to read; then about a month later, we all gathered in a cloud meet-me room with our books and bottles of wine. We started sharing our thoughts on the book and as the night (and wine) progressed we were reminiscing and sharing funny stories of things that this book reminded us of. Next thing I knew it was going on 1am and my husband was yelling it’s bed time, you have work tomorrow.

So we all said goodbye and vowed to do it again soon because it was completely amazing and so much fun. We recently picked our next book which I am eagerly reading because I cannot wait for our next date. Although, I think we’re going to move Wine Wednesday to a Friday because I’m just not cutout for late night drinking on work nights.

Video conferencing benefits managers of remote workers in several ways, including strengthening relationship through face-to-face communications. But what are some other ways managers can use video to increase motivation among geographical dispersed teams?

Collaborative goal setting.

Participation in the goal setting process increases both employee commitment and goal attainment as employees accept greater ownership and responsibility. During this process, managers should make sure goals and incentives are aligned with the firm’s overall mission and goals. For example, paying a bonus based on quantity of work produced is counterproductive if the firm’s goals are based on quality of work produced.

After goals have been set, managers should review performance on a quarterly or even monthly basis. Periodic feedback about progress improves performance and accomplishment of goals because potential issues or areas for improvement are addressed rather than put off until the next review period.  This allows employees to immediately correct their actions thereby increasing performance. Additionally, periodic reviews allow managers to strengthen relationships with their team members through open and honest communications.

Here are a few additional tips regarding goals:

  1. Difficult goals produce better performance but people may abandon goals they perceive as impossible.
  2. Specific and measurable hard goals are more effective than “do your best” goals.
  3. In teams, individual goals can produce negative results as employees become more competitive and less cooperative.

The last piece of the puzzle revolves around possible incentives for achieving goals. While monetary bonuses are typically the “go to” choice; they are not always feasible nor the most effective in motivating employees. Studies have shown that when tasks become more complicated individuals are more motivated by the opportunity to work on more challenging projects than a monetary reward. An interesting video from RSA Animate goes into a little more detail about the surprising things that really motivate us.

The bottom line is, encourage participation in the goal setting process and get creative when developing rewards. Not only will productivity and performance improve, employees will be happier and more fulfilled with their job.

 

We’ve all heard the famous story of Mike Smith and Dick Rowe who turned down the Beatles because “four-piece groups with guitars are finished.” This was probably one of the worst business decisions in history and today’s executives are doing everything in their power to avoid the same demise. There are several secrets to successful decisions but teamwork and collaboration seem to be the most talked about.  

But does teamwork guarantee success? Of course not, it can simply improve the chances for success if done properly.  So what makes a good team? 

Member Diversity: It wouldn’t have mattered if Smith and Rowe had three other people in the room with them; if they all had the same background and opinions the outcome would have been the same, except there would be four people to blame instead of two. An optimal team has members with a wide range of specialties and no two members having the same specialty. This ensures varying opinions from different perspectives and can minimize the chances missing something important. 

Open Communication: What good are several different opinions if they are never shared? If only two team members contribute while everyone else agrees because they are afraid to voice their concerns important aspects can be missed leading to a poor business decision. Interaction and involvement of all members is imperative and group leaders should encourage everyone to contribute their ideas. 

Strong & Clear Leadership: At any given time in a group there must be a strong leader; however, leadership should shift between members. Every team member should have an understanding of their individual leadership skills and be willing and able to function as a leader when needed. Strong and flexible leadership helps ensure high participation as team members utilize their strengths appropriately.

Mutual Trust: Trust is a key component in any team; members must be able to trust the integrity and positive intentions of the others on the team. There must also be mutual respect for the different approaches to work and conflict resolution among team members. This helps the team members form a cohesive unit based on integrity which is highly conducive to open communication. 

Conflict Resolution: Conflicts are guaranteed in any high performing team, as there will always be a couple varying opinions. Therefore, constructive conflict resolution is an integral process for teams to master. The process should revolve around identifying, defining and then resolving the problem with team members actively listening to each other. The focus should be on working toward a solution rather than assigning blame to team members. 

Great teams can produce impressive results; from new product ideas to strategic decision making. However, simply gathering a group of people together does not make a great team. It takes thought to select a diverse but passionate group of people who can work together in an efficient and effective manner for optimal results.

Video conferencing has truly changed the way that people communicate throughout their business and the world. The technology brings people together while providing significant cost savings and productivity gains. But, like any other technology there are always some things to watch out for and some common mistakes or “blunders” that can be made that make you look, well, terrible.

Recently I was presenting to our sales team and quickly came face to face with some of the blunders I’ve experience in the past. While I am proud to say that I did not experience all of these in this single meeting, I came close!

Here they are, in no particular order:

1) The Powerful Forehead: Video conferencing is all about seeing the other participants. When you setup for a call, make sure you have your camera positioned well.  As lovely as it is, the other side is not particularly interested in your forehead. Focus on positioning the camera as if you were a newscaster.  Get your face in the middle of the frame; keep the upper part of your shoulders visible and make sure you don’t put too much space above your head.  You don’t want to cut off your hair, but you also do not want participants to be able to see the taxidermy moose you have hanging behind you.

2) The Background Joke: What’s going on behind you in a video conference can be just as important as your personal appearance. Make sure your background is as minimal as possible. A solid color wall or sheet is a great way to avoid an unsightly distraction. If you can’t have a totally clear background, make sure you do your best to keep background items to a minimal. If you have book shelves behind you, make sure your HD camera is not picking up book titles you wouldn’t want people to see!

3) Can You Hear Me Now?: Sometimes when you’re on the phone you need to mute to avoid others hearing background noise or other side conversations. Video is the same. But what is important to remember is that while you may mute audio, people can still see you. If you are muted, make sure you unmute before proceeding. Nothing is worse than waxing prophetic about the latest company initiative or introducing a great idea, only to have your colleagues see your mouth moving and nothing coming out!

4) Johnny Come Lately: With a video conference, you might be connecting from your house, your office, or other remote location. Make sure you are on time! In fact, get yourself setup in your meeting environment a few minutes before the beginning of the call. This will allow you enough time to make sure your camera is positioned, your background is clear, and you have all notes/materials you need to work through the meeting.

5) Keep Your Eyes On The Prize!: As we’ve mentioned in other articles, it is important to remember that a video call requires you to be fully engaged and ready to speak/participate. Don’t let yourself be distracted (like my 3 month old who is so fascinated with our ceiling fan that he stares at it and forgets he’s hungry) and make sure that you do not let yourself wander off into other activities such as checking your email on your phone or worse, grooming!

These blunders can not only contribute to an unsuccessful call but can also negatively hurt your image with your colleagues. Don’t do that!

“From Telemedicine to applications in government, entertainment, science and education, Polycom is fueling collaboration, knowledge and understanding around the world.”

We are very excited to hear that Polycom, a leader the visual collaboration space, launched its new brand!   Their history in developing innovative video collaboration products is impressive and an increased focus on UC and mobile technologies will continue to change the way people collaboration. 

In a mission to unite devises, operating systems and service provides; Polycom will make video ubiquitous through secure and easy to use technology that delivers a high quality experience to everyone, everywhere.  Watch their video below.

These are exciting times in the visual collaboration space and we cannot wait to see what Polycom comes up with next!