To gain the competitive advantage, the anywhere worker of today (and tomorrow) needs to develop unparrelled skills in unstructured and structured collaboration. Unstructured collaboration such as participation in wikis, blogs, and forums, are a great way to extend your center of excellence, learn new skills, find necessary resources, keep up to date on industry trends, and share expert knowledge.
To start, I want to focus on the skill-set associated with structured collaboration which is needed to successfully contribute to a virtual team. As mentioned in the “6 predictions: the future of work” there are and will be more and more virtual and on-demand teams coming together for a specific project or goal and then disbanding as soon as that goal is complete. The successful team member will be able to move quickly through the start-up phase and maintain superior productivity throughout the project timeline.
Here are a few tips on becoming that artful collaborator:
- Be self-aware. Take responsibility for what you contribute to the team environment. Your tone of voice, writing style, responsiveness and overall openness to working with others that may work in different ways are all important factors in artful collaboration. Be especially careful how you use humor – a powerful ice breaker but also a dangerous one until you get to know each other better.
- Manage your expectations. Get clear on the team’s goal and the roles and responsibilities of all members, not just your own. Ask any clarifying questions as soon as appropriate to ensure you and all members have a common understanding. Recommendation: If you are a team leader, present these items in a kick-off real-time call or web meeting followed by sharing the key documents on the team collaboration site. Schedule a follow-up call after the team members have had time to digest the information. If you are a team member, recommend these steps to the leader.
- Learn the Rules of the Road. Understand and follow the procedures and guidelines for communicating, sharing documents, and reporting status. Use the designated tools, be timely in frequency of posts, be responsive to queries, and let others know how to best contact you. If there are no clear, established protocols for communication – work with the team leader and members to establish them! Take into consideration the varying time zones, cultural norms, as well as project goals when choosing the rules of the road.
- Reach out your hand. Be aware of the pressures and priorities outside of the team which may impact team members, including yourself. Take the time to get to know your team mates, their cultural, organizational, and/or functional differences. Share ideas, thoughts, and inspiration. Make an effort to appreciate each member’s strengths and uniqueness.
- Go to school. Take time to become comfortable with all of the collaboration and communication tools used by the team. Seek extra help if you are new to a tool or a way of communicating. Tap into the other team members’ strengths if they seem to be better at using the tools than you.
- Be an ambassador. Welcome new members when they join. Offer to give them a ‘tour’ of the virtual space and brief them on the activities and accomplishments to date. Introduce team members to one another
Having strong collaborative skills is a competitive advantage in the virtual and global workplace. Each individual contributor on a virtual collaborative team deals with unique challenges for each new project or team they join. Building these core skills will help you to become an artful collaborator and put you in higher demand.