The challenge of virtual and global connectivity is how to: remain connected to what’s important; filter out what’s not; and get the job done. It is all too easy to be distracted by the voluminous ‘noise’ of social networking, and the 24/7 information overload of globally connected teams. Access to communication technology can sometimes mean less quality communication and more interactions. Misinterpretation and misunderstandings can also be problematic when relying on instant communications. The rules of engagement in these new social networking and online spaces are also often learnt through trial and error. Our three key pieces of advice when communicating to connect globally in diverse workplaces are to:
1. THINK – Ensure clarity first
- Of purpose – What am I trying to achieve? Why am I communicating at all?
- Of process – How will this task be achieved?
- Of roles – What is my role, and the role of others? Who is accountable?
2. SELECT – Who, how and why?
- Appropriate channel – Know your technology and protocols for use
- Appropriate audience – Who needs/wants to hear your message and how?
- Appropriate tone – Emotive or constructive feedback better offline
3. GET REAL – Maintain authenticity and integrity
- Be reliable – Do what you say you will, and when
- Be transparent – Let people know what’s happening
- Be respectful – boundaries, of uses of language, and of time zones
In our work with globally connected, culturally diverse teams, we find the benefits of online collaboration are enormous. It’s hard to imagine how we all worked globally in the past. With any new technology there is a cycle of change and associated upheaval. I recall when managing international student exchange programs in the 1990’s one manager suggesting we ban the use of email as it was hindering the cultural immersion experience of incoming exchange students. It’s hard to imagine such a concept, yet when speaking at a national education conference last week, I learnt the use of technology is also posing significant challenges for educators even at the primary school level. As with any new process, or technology, the key to success is the message, rarely the medium. We need to ensure our use of online collaboration is deepening our understanding and engagement with others rather than hindering it. To go back to the core reasons we communicate in the first place is a simple but powerful step which can make a significant difference to outcomes.