Norm here. I use video on a daily basis and absolutely love it; although, I seem to make a lot of mistakes which can be rather embarrassing at times. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’m sharing some of these instances so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Yesterday, I was in the conference room for our monthly sales meeting. We were discussing the latest market trends when this new guy appears on the screen to give his thoughts. Now, not only did this guy have long blonde hair, he had his shirt unbuttoned a little too far if you know what I mean.
So I lean over and whisper to Carl, who does this guy think he is Fabio? When I turn back, I saw a few people snickering and Dan (aka Fabio) had a really weird look on his face.
I thought to myself, could they have heard me? No way, they’re thousands of miles away and I was just whispering to Carl. Maybe they read my lips? That seems highly unlikely – although Fabio is pretty distinct.
Later that day, my manager calls me into his office to discuss my ‘inappropriate comment.’ Uh oh – busted. Turns out, microphones are super sensitive and can pick up even the slightest sound. Even though I was whispering, the microphone picked up my comments for every single person to hear.
Note to self: Whispering is not really whispering on a video call.
Anyway, the next day I called Dan over video to apologize for my behavior. I told him that sometimes I speak without really thinking and he was cool about it. He said perhaps I was just jealous because he could pull off the look and I couldn’t. Right, that’s it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
At any given time there are several different languages being spoken in an emergency room. Spouses, children, friends or relatives are usually there to interpret; but what happens when an interpreter is not immediately available?
Calling one over audio is an option; however, it can get extremely confusing handing phones back and forth while a remote third-party translates. For the hearing impaired, Video Relay Services are an option; however, according to FCC regulations they are designated for telephone calls only and cannot be used when both hearing and hearing impaired parties are in the same room.
Enter Video Remote Interpreting (VRI); a growing field that bridges the communication gap by translating spoken words into American Sign and other languages over video. An offsite interpreter hears the voices of those speaking and then relays the message into the camera which the other participant can hear or view on their screen.
These services are extremely useful in hospital emergency rooms where quick communication between patients and caregivers is essential. In smaller cities it can take a significant amount of time for an interpreter to arrive onsite; however, with VRI doctors and nurses can simply connect to a remote interpreter for instantaneous communication.
A quick video from Paras and Associates explains how video is not only revolutionizing Telemedicine by providing access to medical specialists, but by providing immediate access to an interpreter.
What happens when you put a Cisco CTS 1300 and a couple of super genius IVCi audio visual designers in the same room?
A panoramic camera view that allows all three room segments to be captured, as well as, auto switches to the person speaking for a close up view.
With the help of several magic boxes, a few third party tools, and a whole lot of IVCi ingenuity, this truly unique design enables collaboration by not only allowing participants to view the presenter, but to view the other participants reactions.
Now you can easily bounce back and forth between meeting participants without losing sight of what really matters!
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:
- Difficult goals produce better performance but people may abandon goals they perceive as impossible.
- Specific and measurable hard goals are more effective than “do your best” goals.
- 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.