On Friday, Forbes.com featured a write-up of an interview with Patrick Lencioni, a leadership consultant and author of several books on the subject. The article focuses on the degree to which technology can be relied upon to manage virtual teams and offers useful advice for organizations and managers alike.
Lencioni takes an interesting approach when he compares workplace teams to families:
No family would say, ‘Well, Dad lives in New York, Mom lives in San Francisco, and the kids are spread around the country, but thanks to my iPhone and computer, it’s no different from living under the same roof.’ The simple but often overlooked truth is that without the daily interaction of breakfast or dinner or homework or late night conversation or doing the dishes, a family can’t possibly develop and maintain the strength it needs to thrive during good times and survive during challenging ones. The same is true for teams that have no incidental conversations in the hallway, or at lunch or in the elevator for that matter.
But Lencioni understands that face-to-face isn’t always possible and turns to conference calls to facilitate virtual team meetings when necessary. He also acknowledges that high-end video conferencing may be an opportunity for better connecting virtual teams, but he warns that “no single device or tool can replace face-to-face interaction” and that such sophisticated technology is absent from most organizations.
Ultimately, Lencioni concludes that, whether meetings are face-to-face or via the latest technology, a few common rules apply:
Regardless of whether teams get together in person or remotely, they need to regularly revisit their purpose, values and mission. They need to work at developing trust and determining methods for hashing out differences remotely. They also have to establish ways to keep their team goals—not just their individuals’ goals—visible and urgent.