Culture & Competency

A-Z of Virtual Teams: R is Responsiveness

The heart of effective collaboration both in-person and when mitigated by technology is responsiveness, as measured in (a) time and (b) engagement.

In terms of time, a face-to-face conversation “works” when the people in the meeting answer the questions they have been asked during the meeting, or take a next action to respond at a later time. Meetings where one person talks, and everyone else is an unreadable object — not engaging in the conversation and not giving any feedback — are really difficult meetings for the people who are asking questions. “That meeting was a waste of time” is a good summary — the others didn’t embrace the opportunity afforded by in-person time to converse in rapid / interactive time.

The same applies to conversations run through technology. Regardless of the technology being used, a timely response is a great facilitator of collaboration. In some cases, email can be a very effective collaboration tool where two people are having a conversation by email, and where each person takes the responsibility to reply in short order. Conversations left hanging for days and weeks — where someone ignores the request for conversation with another as embodied in an email — are hung / dead conversations. The other will have to move on, will have to find another way of making it happen.

In terms of engagement, responsiveness can be measured. You send out an invitation for collaboration, and the others come back quickly but with only a brief “okay” or “looks good” … They have been responsive in time but not in terms of engagement. What does “okay” really mean? Is that all they can say to your masterpiece, or is the “okay” a signal of indifference, a sign that they really don’t care.

On the other hand, a detailed response that shows care and thought in understanding what you were saying, and in giving concrete ideas on how to improve it … well, it’s more messy, but it’s an invitation for collaboration. You will have to re-evaluate your positions, and re-evaluate how you will proceed with the project or the idea, but that’s the point.

So the R is … responsiveness, as measured both in time and in engagement.

What Do I Need To Do?

How are you going with being responsive in your virtual team work? Are others waiting (… and waiting … and waiting … and waiting) for you to come back? Do others describe you as “responsive”, or do they frequently say “Oh you are still alive” when they happen to bump into you virtually or in-person? (If yes, that’s *really* bad).

What do you need to do differently, to be more responsive?

See A-Z of Virtual Teams: Summary for the complete list.

Categories: Culture & Competency

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