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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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6

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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Getting started can be a big hurdle. Sometimes, it’s all about simply starting anywhere you can start now.

There’s such a thing as a rhetorical statement where somebody makes a statement, and they don’t really want a smartass response from you.

If you’re sharing your incredible Spring Break resort vacation pictures on social networks, how about sharing some everyday crappy weather pix too?

60 is the new 30 because when you hit 60, you still have 35 more years to work before you’ll be able to retire.

When someone’s apparently listening to you, don’t rule out that they are thinking, “I have no idea what he/she is talking about…”

The stupidest thing said to me the past month? “You’re from Kansas City? Kansas City, Kansas or Kansas City, Oklahoma?”

I don’t know how to spell the sound a spit take makes.

No matter how hard you look, there are no self-writing magazine articles.

Just because you CAN do a video doesn’t make it um, necessary to do, if, um, you can’t do one without saying, “um” a lot.

I wonder if Bradley Pitt would have been as successful if his parents had named him “Armand”?

Little kids aren’t the only ones that love dinosaurs. Seems like some business executives do as well given the way they cling to extinct business models.

What could you do tonight to be clearer & more focused tomorrow? And by “you” I mean “I.” And by all the rest, I mean, “I have no clue.”  – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

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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I had the privilege of attending the Service Management Forum recently in Atlanta.  Service Management Group, a Kansas City company specializing in helping businesses develop, measure, and monitor differentiated customer service experiences, has been organizing the Service Management Forum for 14 years. The Forum has a reputation for a terrific line up of thought-leading business executives, academics, and motivational speakers.

The Forum theme surrounded innovation, supported by the title, “Think Different. Be Different.”  With a title like that, who wouldn’t want to be there!

Two of this year’s speakers leveraged concepts from improv comedy for business and innovation lessons, with five important improv lessons for innovators shared during the Service Management Forum.

Lesson 1 Make Little Bets

The first speaker offering innovation lessons from comedy was Little Bets author Peter Sims (Twitter @petersims).  Peter started with a clip from the 2002 Jerry Seinfeld documentary, “Comedian” to demonstrate Little Bets since “most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas – they discover them.”  During the clip, Seinfeld is on stage at a small comedy club, struggling to work out new concepts and ideas.  It was almost painful watching Seinfeld try out ideas that weren’t connecting with the audience.  Not connecting is actually an understatement, he was flopping.  Through this clip, Peter’s point hit the mark.

We are all accustomed to the polished brilliance of Jerry Seinfeld.  Contrary to popular belief, “brilliance” doesn’t pop up out of thin air.  Rather, comedic brilliance results from many hours of hard work, trial, error, and numerous iterations – “experimental innovation.”  Top comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock become top comedians by experimenting through Little Bets to find big, successful ideas.

Photo credit: The Second City - Chicago

The next lessons were provided by The Second City’s Communications group (Twitter: @SecondCityBiz) via a hilarious, gut-busting performance by an improv troop from The Second City.  Besides laughing so hard my abs hurt, we saw principles of improv in action.   However, I suspect that most of us in the audience were unaware of the improve lessons we were being exposed to since it was just great improv comedy!

Forum participants subsequently spent an hour learning a number of their key tricks-of-the-trade from two of The Second City Communication Group’s experts as we participated in several improv drills driving home the principles they were teaching and had demonstrated on stage.

Lesson 2:  Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral

This lesson builds nicely on Sims’ notion of Little Bets in that it doesn’t insist on starting with a singular brilliant idea, but discovering it over time.  In improv, the key to success is taking one person’s idea and building on it just a little bit more, then passing it along to be built on even more by someone else.  In time and with skill, something brilliant has the opportunity to unfold – the cathedral.

Great improv teams work together deliberately and carefully to keep things moving by only adding a little – and not trying to do anything more.  If a member of the troop is trying to uncork something amazing on their own, they can become preoccupied with their own thoughts and miss what is being said around them.  As a consequence, when the improv skit makes its way back to them, they can be caught off guard, unable to contribute appropriately, and bringing the skit to grind to an uncomfortable halt.

A parallel for this in business and innovation is the assertion that “Action Creates Clarity” from Peter Sheahan’s (Twitter @PeterGSheahan) 2008 book FL!P. Sheahan states businesses would be far better served through an action-oriented approach “built on the fundamentals of behavioral flexibility and rapid decision making . . . [It needs] to have a broad vision, or what I call a trajectory, that compels you toward a better future. It should be flexible enough to absorb changes in market conditions and completely new technologies and products.”  Sheahan’s point is essentially the same as point being made The Second City, move forward, one brick at a time – but do move forward. That’s where improv lesson 3 needs to be employed.

Lesson 3: Be grateful for all information

The folks from The Second City spoke about being grateful for, and “taking really good care of the information” one receives.  I thoroughly love this improv lesson!

All information is an opportunity to learn something. You don’t need to like or agree with the information for a learning opportunity.  Orienting oneself towards having a receptive and learning mindset, can make the difference between success and failure. And, if you are wanting to keep the innovation process going, you absolutely need to take really good care of, not only the information, but also the person(s), sharing the information.

The first step in demonstrating gratefulness for information is acknowledging the person delivering the information and the information shared.  To appropriately acknowledge information, one needs to be alert to the information being presented.  Beyond just being “aware” of the information, one genuinely needs to pay attention to understand the context in which it is being provided. One also must receive and thoughtfully process the information in order to provide feedback to sustain the creative discourse, applying the “Yes, and…” lesson.

Lesson 4: Yes, And…

The Second City states “Yes, and…” is foundation for improv success, building on there being no wrong answers in improv (except for maybe…. “no”).  Yes, and… is a powerful mindset and approach. Yes, and… places one in the active listening mode and oriented toward building on the idea or information being shared.  As with “bring a brick,” one key to both improv and innovation, is to keep things going. Yes, and… almost magically helps this happen.

Yes, and… is empowering.  Yes, and… also speaks to and organization’s cultural philosophy.  With Yes, and… as the guiding approach for creative conversations exploring new concepts, there’s a greater desire to provide and share new ideas. This is a signature of a culture of innovation and learning.

Can you imagine having regular conversations that met with responses like this?

Boss: Yes! You know what, that’s a really cool idea! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. And, you know what, let’s take your idea, build on it a little, and make it even better!

Employee:  OK, that’s awesome! And maybe after that, we could go get ice cream at Baskin Robbins in the Bat Mobile!

I digress…. but hopefully you get the point.  Yes, and… is BRILLIANT! And really really POWERFUL!

Lesson 5: It takes a team

Perhaps one of the most significant learning from The Second City is improv (like innovation) is inherently a culture of “we.”  The Second City shared the mantra, “I’ve got your back.” That’s actually pretty cool!

Improv (and innovation) success both require a team that demonstrates a culture of mutual and reciprocal support and trust.  One has to have the desire and commitment to make others look good.  If everyone on the team is committed to making each other look good, remarkable things can happen spontaneously!  If one if focused on making themselves look good, an improv skit’s likelihood of success is dramatically lessened.  It takes a team of players all moving toward the same goal.

In a recent Brainzooming article, I highlighted innovation as a team effort.  “In order for an innovative new product to get to market and become successful, many different people need to contribute to that success.  Just like a baseball team (or improv troop), these different players have unique and complementary innovation roles and skills.  These roles have to work together and depend upon each other executing their role to their fullest in order to come out with a win.”  The bottom line; if you want to be successful at improv, or at innovation, you need a really good team.

I have to admit I really didn’t know much about how improv worked prior to attending the SMG Forum.  And even after attending The Second City Communication’s workshop, I can only claim a little more knowledge than I could previously.  I’ve always had great admiration for comedy and in particular, improv; and my admiration has grown exponentially as a result of what I learned from Peter Sims and the folks of The Second City:

Let me hear what you think! – Woody Bendle

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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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