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Where will you use written communication over in-person communication?


DocumentsI recently opened up my Google+ account like any other tech fanatic. And one of the feature that got my attention was – Google’s Hangout. I have never seen more than 4 users video chatting at the same time without a premium account (whatever service it maybe). Though this hangout feature got my attention, I don’t think that today’s generation of SMSs and Tweets will use this feature extensively. I might be wrong, people might use this technology extensively and we might find a new generation of “Hangouters”. But this is too soon to predict anything. The only thing that I can say with confidence is – why people prefer SMSs, Tweets, and e-mails instead of in-person talk, phone calls, and meetings. Following are few situations, where people would rather prefer written communication over in-person communication.

Language barrier: As a part of my job, I manage various individuals from different locations. One of the team that reports to me is located in China. While they are very intelligent and technically sound, they have one short coming of speaking English properly. They normally understand my pronunciation of English, but I mostly have a hard time in listing their English pronunciation. Even after closely listening, I miss some sentences. Thus, I prefer to talk to them through Live Messenger instead of through a video conference. This gives me the opportunity to understand them better, while this gives them the opportunity to consume the data, translate it into their native language (through Google translator), and respond me back.

Broadcasting: Written communication is also useful during information broadcasting. For example: if I am having my birthday party, I would rather post it on my Tweeter feeds, Facebook or Google+’s feeds instead of calling everyone to come. And why not? I don’t need to repeat the same message to everyone on the phone. And I can also get the count of expected attendees at my party through these event’s page.

Record keeping: With information overload in today’s world, people tend to forget things which you might have mentioned to them few weeks ago. Thus, most of people like me, tends to follow-up through e-mail. According to me, e-mail is the best way to keep records of your conversation. For example: Let’s say, I talk to “Joe” regarding some IT issue over the phone and he tells me that he will get back to me on next Monday. If I wouldn’t have followed-up with an e-mail explaining the problem, I had to explain him the problem again on Monday. If I would have e-mailed him the details then I can just forward that e-mail and ask the status of this issue. He can then look at the information in the e-mail and find the status of the issue without wasting my or his time.

Speed: Sometimes, people just don’t like to talk in-person for smaller talks. For example: Let’s say, I have just talked to my colleague to see if he is interested in coming to a BBQ at my house. And he told me that he will get back to me today, but he forgot to respond. I would rather SMS him to ask his answer instead of calling him. If I call him, I don’t have anything to say because I just talked to him not long ago. But I still want his answer. So, I will just get SMS him to find his answer. This will be much more quicker and time efficient.

People’s availability: This is a really big question in today’s world. 6/10 times, I want to talk to someone, but I can’t find their free time. Thus, I always end up writing them an e-mail or texting them on their mobile. There can be various reasons for this issue, from time zone differences to their prior commitments to work or personal events. But when I use written communication instead of oral communication, they have the time to consume the information and then respond back to me on their free time. In this way, I don’t put someone in a weird situation by calling them during their working hours.

I hope these tips might have given you some pointers about where to use written communication instead of in-person communication. If you know any other situations where written communication will be preferred over in-person communication then do let me know. I am always looking for people’s feedback to improve my knowledge. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams


DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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“5Cs” of Leadership in the 21st century


Leadership is becoming more and more critical for all the businesses as they change rapidly with the time. Researchers have proposed many leadership models over the years in an attempt to develop theories that describe, predict, evaluate, and develop better leaders.  These efforts to develop leadership theories have been only marginally successful and thus new and more complex theories have continued to evolve in an attempt to fill this void. In this article, I will focus on five important concepts of leadership, which might help you to be a better leader.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking and problem solving: Today’s organizations are highly dynamic, and variety of problems can arise on a given day. Thus, it is important for a leader to be able to identify critical problems and resolving them in timely manner. Today’s leaders should look beyond the immediate issue and identify the source of the problem, so that it doesn’t happen again.

Creativity and innovation: Creativity is not necessarily about become another Einstein or Picasso. Creativity can be as simple as new ways for old situations. For example, on the board or with management, you might get new energy by changing meeting formats, or seeking to solve old problems in new ways. This approach has worked for many big companies like Google, Apple and Twitter; and it can definitely work for your business too.

Team WorkCollaboration and teamwork: In today’s complex businesses, collaboration is becoming really important. For example: TCS, an Indian I.T. consulting firm, has more than 100,000 employees and more than 40-50 verticals. With collaboration between these large pool of employee base, TCS can share its best practices within these different verticals and employ efficient processes all over the organization.

Cross-cultural understanding: With existing virtual teams and increasing outsourcing in the businesses, today’s leaders need to understand the importance various cultures. When communicating with people abroad, leaders need to know both the strategy and structure in cultural and communication  patterns. As a leader we need to develop a strategy to foster cross cultural ideas and opportunities.

Communication of information: In today’s business, it is important that an organization’s leader get beyond providing information and direction. Communication is an act of gaining understanding and commitment from individuals, in order to learn from others and build an exceptional organization. Thus, as a leader we should use tools such as the intranet, emails from the Leaders, All hands meetings and blogs as a means for the Leaders to communicate with employees. This will definitely help you in creating the best organization.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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