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I was talking recently with someone in a large organization working from home with a remote work team (both direct reports and a boss) spread across multiple geographies. While that would have been extremely rare once, these work team dynamics are now common.

If you’re part of a remote work team, how do you signal to other work team members what’s going on, what you’re working on currently, and collaboration opportunities? How do you also signal to a boss you are actually working and not goofing off (always one of my big concerns whenever I would work from home while in the corporate world)?

9 Ways to Signal Remote Collaboration Opportunities and Improve Work Team Dynamics

Although new online collaboration tools are being introduced all the time, here are nine workplace behaviors (regardless of the online collaboration tools you use) to signal and create stronger collaboration opportunities within your work team:

  • Take time to understand communication styles within your work team, and let work team members know your preferences as well.
  • Pick up the phone and call (okay, even text) proactively at both expected and unexpected times. This signals both routine and keeps everyone guessing – in a good way.
  • Prioritize responding to team members. While it is a good idea to not continually interrupt yourself (or allow others to do it to you), quick email and phone responses to bosses and co-workers signal your head is definitely in the game.
  • Provide brief, informal updates with high regularity. And by updates, I do not mean endless cc’s or bcc’s to others. Add value to recaps, highlighting only what the other person needs to know to continue their work in a consistent and expeditious manner relative to your progress.
  • Make your calendar available for others to see.
  • If you have a direct phone line that is not mobile, transfer it to your mobile phone when you are away.
  • Do not presume someone knows what you are working on right now and strive to eliminate surprises. I had a boss with only two rules, one of which was “no surprises.” This simple rule always helped to know what, despite his extensive travel and frequent unavailability, required an update. Acting as if a version of the “no surprises” rule is in place is much better than continually waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • Create evidence whenever you work at odd hours or perform extraordinary work activities. Don’t fudge on this one, but whenever appropriate, send late night emails, reference having thought about (or worked on something) over the weekend, and share a brief story of a challenge you conquered. These behaviors let others know your contribution to the team is there even when they can’t see it.
  • Be judicious in using social media. While I have social media platforms on all the time now, when I was in a corporate gig, I would only share Brainzooming or other personal content in clear non-work hours. There were too many people who might misconstrue social media activity during work hours.

2 Rules to Follow

There are two important rules underlying all these suggestions:

1) You have to actually be doing the work and putting in the expected effort.

2) These rules are not about deception, but simply providing signals to co-workers that you not only are moving forward on projects, but also have their backs when they need it.

What ?

Are you working with a remote work team? If so, what signals do you provide to work team members to stay in sync? - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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1. Leaders build trust through doing what they say and displaying vulnerability, honesty, humility, ethics, etc.

2. Forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give in this world.

3. Don’t go through life only looking for what else you need to fulfill you. See how what you already have can be more fulfilling.

4. A Peace Prayer: Lord, help me to understand what you want me to learn or change because of this challenging person in my life.

5. There is only a 1 letter difference between “fear” and “feat.” Are you ready to change the “r” to a “t”?

6. Leaders don’t advocate people do something they have specifically decided against doing themselves.

7. Get minimally proficient in weaknesses opposite your biggest strengths. Doing so makes you more versatile since you can then play against your usual approach.

8. Don’t mistake being an introvert for really having no emotional intelligence at all.

9. Growing to believe in something more strongly will mean there are some things that used to be okay that you can no longer support.

10. You weren’t as good as you remember in your memories. You aren’t as vulnerable as you think you are now. - Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Here is a view of strategic options for creating change I identified for a willing but frustrated change maker. The change management options are based on comparing how big the perceived need for dramatically different results is relative to frustration levels with the status quo situation.

Four Strategy Options for Change Management

Creating-Change

Incremental Modifications

When both the level of frustration with the status quo and the perceived need for dramatically different results are low, incremental modifications are in order. With no pressing demands for change, intense efforts to innovate and create change are best applied elsewhere.

Experimentation

If there’s high frustration with the status quo yet no compelling push for change (think dissatisfaction with a process that’s more trouble than it’s worth even though the results are okay), it’s an opportunity to experiment, simplify, streamline, and try new things. These situations are ripe for constant tweaking and learning from both successes and failures.

Creating a Burning Platform

Creating a burning platform is the recommended course of action when results are substandard, but there’s an unwillingness, reluctance, or blindness to make dramatic changes within an organization. It usually calls for a well-crafted mix of facts and emotion to create the burning platform to move people to recognize the need for action and the importance of getting started right away.

Transformation

Total transformation is called for when everyone understands results are way off goal and the current course of action will never close the gap. When put that way, it could seem transformation might be the easiest of the quadrants. That’s hardly the case though, since the stakes are greatest and the response will likely be more complex and multi-faceted than any of the other quadrants.

Do these strategy options for change management hang together for you?

When you’re trying to figure out how to make change happen, how do you go about figuring out your course of action for creating change? - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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At the end of March’s #Ideachat, I commented to JoAnn Jordan (who lives in my hometown of Hays, KS) that I use three different Twitter tools to participate in Twitter chats as active as #Ideachat. JoAnn asked me to write a post explaining why in the world I use three different Twitter interfaces. Here’s my answer to JoAnn’s question.

What is a Twitter Chat?

A Twitter chat is a typically a scheduled, usually hour-long time set aside for participants to discuss (which really means, “tweet”) a specific topic. The conversations are organized through including a Twitter hashtag specific to the chat in all tweets. There are a whole slew of Twitter chats on a whole slew of topics, although no one seems to be sure whether there is a truly comprehensive and up-to-date list of them.

Some Twitter chats are snoozers because not enough people participate. Others (such as some of those on social media) are mad houses because there are so many side conversations going on it’s difficult to follow and get much out of them.

I’ve found #Ideachat to be in the “just right” category: it’s always a vibrant conversation on relevant topics where you can actually interact, share, and learn from global participants who show up the second Saturday of every month at 8 a.m. central time.

Participating in a Twitter Chat

Even though #Ideachat is a much more manageable than other chats, here are the three Twitter interfaces I use to keep up, along with how and why I use each one.

Tweetchat.com

Tweetchat is great application because it is designed for Twitter chats and automatically appends the appropriate hashtag to every tweet. I use Tweetchat for:

  • Keeping track of questions and prompts from the host / moderator.
  • Monitoring the general chat conversations and identifying tweets to build on and respond to within the discussion.
  • Responding and replying to questions and comments from others.
  • Retweeting all host questions (This is so they appear in the stream and provide context to any followers who might be monitoring the chat. This also helps organize the tweets if I want to write a blog post from the chat.)
  • Retweeting all interesting comments that add to the discussion, IF they are short enough to retweet, i.e. under 140 characters. If the retweet winds up being more than 140 characters, I will shift to Twitter.com or Tweetdeck to retweet it.  (I retweet intriguing comments from others that might also be destined for a post-chat blog post.)
  • Clicking on the names of people I do not think I follow. This opens up their Twiter.com profiles to easily follow them.
If you’re only going to use one interface, Twetchat is a strong choice.

Twitter.com

I do not spend a lot of time on Twitter.com, but it does a nice job for two things during a chat:

  • Checking to see if I am following new people in the chat, and following them if I am not already.
  • Retweeting comments from others that are too long to retweet in Tweetchat.
While you can have an ongoing search for your chat hashtag on Twitter.com, it’s not the best choice since you still have to remember to include the hashtag in every tweet.

Tweetdeck (old version) or Hootsuite

I usually find Tweetdeck refreshes more quickly, so I tend to use it more frequently during chats. But that is only because I am still using the old version of Tweetdeck. If not for that, I would probably deal with the slower refreshes on Hootsuite since it does have some other advantages. Hootsuite allows you to create a specific tab with only the streams relevant to a particular chat. Having all the columns in one tab along with the ability to drag and drop them (which Tweetdeck cannot do) is a real advantage. These applications come in handy for:

  • Checking my @ mentions and search column to see if anyone within the Twitter chat is “talking” to me. It can be difficult to spot people reaching out directly on Tweetchat. If responding from one of these apps, it is important to remember to add the hashtag since it will not be done automatically.
  • Creating a Twitter chat specific search column to track the chat and retweet tweets too long for Tweetchat (this applies to Tweetdeck, since Hootsuite won’t letyou retweet a too-long tweet).
  • Tracking related hashtags and a list of people who generally participate in the current Twitter chat.
  • Responding to non-chat conversations.

That’s my setup for participating in a chat. Well, all that plus a Diet Dr. Pepper. And, if it’s one of  Jim Joseph’s evening EXP event chats, then rule number 5 is also in effect.

If you’re active on Twitter chats, what shortcuts have you found to participate on them?  - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Last Sunday, Diane Stafford’s column in the Kansas City Star discussed the role of “Synergists,” as described by Lee McKeown, within teams. Synergists bring together team members with varied perspectives, pull the talents together collaboratively, and make things happen within business teams. Lee McKeown noted that from his experience, there are few natural synergists. Most people need to grow into the collaborative skills synergists employ.

March Madness Point GuardSince we’re in the midst of March Madness, Diane Stafford’s column about synergists made me think about basketball point guards. As with synergists, basketball point guards play vital roles in pulling basketball teams together and making things happen, especially during March Madness basketball games.

Across all the March Madness basketball games, there will be ample opportunities to see the best college point guards in action. As you watch March Madness basketball games, look for these comparisons between outstanding point guards and business team members who excel at making things happen within business teams.

Nine Common Characteristics Shared by Outstanding Point Guards and Business Team Leaders

These nine characteristics are important for both point guards and synergists to display:

1. An unselfish, team-oriented mentality requiring stepping back or stepping up (whichever is appropriate) to make the whole team most successful.

2. Multi-dimensional skills and versatility – not just being okay at several skills, but being an outstanding performer in multiple important areas for success.

3. Dependability and an ability to build trust among team members through consistent outstanding performance and a focus on making the whole team work well together.

4. Enabling teammates to be more productive by knowing how their individual and collective strengths will create wins.

5. Leadership among both peers and organizational leaders by being on strategy even while looking for new opportunities to exploit when modifying the strategy makes sense.

6. Efficiency and effectiveness as a communicator among the team and its leaders so there are no detrimental surprises.

7. Command of situations a team faces through understanding team member roles, emerging opportunities, environmental and resource variables, and the team’s past performance history.

8. A talent for real-time analysis and being a “scenario implementer,” creating success by connecting current activities to scenarios the team has rehearsed.

9. Poise and a tremendous work ethic to lead by example and help appropriately balance successes and failures the team will experience.

What do you think? Are you a point guard on your business teams? Do you work with an outstanding business point guard? What characteristics do they display that let them excel?

It’s Not Just March Madness that Has Us Thinking About This

Beyond March Madness, we’ve been thinking about this a lot because these skills are absolutely vital in successfully implementing the type of collaborative, multi-functional strategic plans we help organizations develop. It’s becoming clearer that unless business leaders display these nine skills outstanding basketball point guards must possess, they are going to struggle in successfully implementing collaboratively, even with collaboratively-developed strategic plans.

Look for more on this topic here – well after March Madness is over – as we take on helping managers better learn and use these skills. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I love seeing an integrated marketing communications effort (or any type of integrated program planning) play out successfully. When a program displays strategic integration, it makes it easier on the audience to get the message let alone its efficiency for the message sender in delivering the message successfully.

There’s a recent case in point, as newly ordained fashionista Jessica Simpson made an appearance on the NBC program “The Biggest Loser” last night, doing makeovers for a couple of contestants. “The Biggest Loser” episode was right before the new Jessica Simpson fashion-oriented NBC competition TV show, “Fashion Star.” While I didn’t get to see TBL, I heard a lot about it Monday night when Cyndi was watching “The Voice” and “Smash,” also on NBC. And on “Fashion Star,” the integration continued with Macys, Saks, and H&M buyers bidding on designs that are magically available in their stores today for the public to buy.

What an example of great strategic integration.

But how do you make sure you’re planning for all the steps you need to address to successfully integrate a marketing effort?

A 15-Step Checklist for Integrated Program Planning Success

Considering what might have had to happen to make sure Jessica Simpson appeared on “The Biggest Loser” as a lead in to her new “Fashion Star” reality TV show provides a great checklist any of us can use when developing an integrated plan. Here are fifteen steps for successful integrated program planning the people behind “Fashion Star” would have had to consider:

  • Evaluate the need for and benefits of an integrated effort.
  • Develop a preliminary plan with the flexibility to incorporate integration opportunities.
  • Sell-in integration’s value to stakeholders who may have to be convinced.
  • Develop a timeline so you can look for and plan seemingly far off integration opportunities.
  • Research what other efforts provide adjacencies (timing, geography, process, etc.) to your effort, in addition to thinking through other intriguing strategic integration possibilities.
  • Act with enough time to modify plans already in place within your own organization or with potential integration partners.
  • Reach out and build relationships with parties responsible for potential integration opportunities.
  • Secure agreement to integration activities with other partners.
  • Anticipate external situations and the context when the integrated program will roll out.
  • Create story lines to make the integration make sense to audiences.
  • Coordinate resources across all involved parties.
  • Take necessary steps with all partners to prepare to implement the integrated effort.
  • Manage the coordinated activities so any unforeseen challenges to the integration effort won’t derail it.
  • Promote the integrated program so all target audiences are aware of and understand it.
  • Implement the integration and perform any follow-up.

What do you think? What type of checklist do you use when developing and implementing an integrated marketing communications effort or managing other integrated program planning?

Fifteen steps might seem like a lot, but I’d invite you to use this checklist when you’re in the planning phase to make sure you maximize any integrated program planning opportunity. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Angela Dunn’s March #Ideachat focused on “How to Take an Idea from Concept to Execution” with Whitney Johnson, Francis Pedrazza, and Kevin Sakhuia as co-hosts. #Ideachat was its typical mega tweet-filled hour, but even more so than normal this month. As an indication of #Ideachat’s growing popularity, it seemed as if the greetings between participants went on for 10 minutes at the start. While that’s part of the fun, it just takes up time from the real creative interaction and information sharing that makes #Ideachat the one Twitter chat I really try to make each month.

Here are some of the paraquote highlights from the March #Ideachat Twitter stream:

March 2012 #Ideachat TweetersWhat does Personal Disruption Entail?

Personal disruption was the point of departure for #Ideachat to get a sense of what it takes to push yourself through fear into implementing ideas and launching significant new ventures.

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney: That’s the innovator’s dilemma: Die or die sooner. Disrupt yourself and you die later. I find that I need to walk in the direction of my fear. It is a signal that is exactly where I need to go.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: You have to feel lost before you can be found.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: Disrupt = unlearn = breaking rules = conversion = amazing results

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making the case.” – Ken Kesey

My Contribution: Personal disruption is knocking or allowing the footing to be knocked out from under what feels comfortable to you now.

Overcoming Fears of Failure to Get Personal Disruption Started

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: I consider most things “Nearly impossible” – that engages my curiosity and creativity.

My Contribution: If impossible is not a state of mind, then at least redefining the challenge to not be impossible is. At the TED 2012 Simulcast, Donald Sadoway talked about assigning his grad students projects he thought were impossible without telling them. They then go out and solve them because they don’t know they’re supposed to be impossible.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Learned a new phrase from @jasonwomack: “Practice makes comfortable.”  Applying it to get past fear of disrupting myself.

My Contribution:  Trying small, lower risk steps can help get over the initial fear of failure. It can also be done through taking a bigger risk on something that’s not “life” threatening.  Sometimes you can get over fear of failure by using the buddy system and having someone taking the same or a comparable risk along with you. One way of getting over fear can be letting someone or circumstances FORCE you in to what you fear. It’s all about letting yourself get thrown in the pool without resisting it!

What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart When It Comes to Personal Disruption

JoAnn Jordan / @JordanEM: Visionary, improvisational, rule benders.

Woody Bendle / @wbendle: Seeing things that nobody sees in the things that everyone sees. Commitment. Perseverance. Tenacity. Conviction. Focus. Resourcefulness. MacGyver with some business savvy.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Entrepreneurs get bored easily.

Maureen Devlin / @lookforsun: I think for some entrepreneurs it’s about money, but others it’s passion for solving something. Money comes afterward.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: A3 An entrepreneur is a full time volunteer with an unusual optimism and an extraordinary ability to see problems #ideachat

Steve Koss / @SteveKoss:  Triple play of integrity – thoughts, words, actions all in sync.

My Contribution:  Entrepreneurs have a confidence in “living” to see the next day. They instinctively see beyond any missteps or failures.

What Investors Expect in Attractive Ideas

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney:  The first question I ask: Is it disruptive? If so, is it low-end or new market? (Also) May bet on the founder if not sure of the idea. Won’t bet on the idea if they’re not comfortable with the founder.

Vala Afshar /@ValaAfshar: Ideas are of plenty. Its execution that bridges ideas to meaningful solutions.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Create something disruptive. Product and metrics talk for itself. Surprisingly, investors are also searching for you.

Other Great Tidbits

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: Conventional wisdom is the most efficient path to ordinary.

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: “Avoid being complicit in mindless incrementalism.” And “One person’s pain is another’s game?”

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Crowd funding works if 1) incentive is not monetary 2) u have a great story 3) u are a painkiller not a vitamin

The Harvard Business Review link to Whitney Johnson’s piece on procrastination being essential to innovation.

Final Thought: Any Twitter followers who leave you for all the #ideachat tweets you make in an hour are far outweighed by any #Ideachat participant kind enough to follow you!  - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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