Digital Communication in virtual teams is more topical than ever and in the Technology-Practice often more complicated than assumed. You can learn 4 tips from Bismarck of all places.

Virtual teams

No success without good communication

Let's imagine a head of state retiring to the seclusion of the alpine mountains for ten months and taking care of their business Tasks like hiking in the mountains. It is completely unrealistic that a head of government should be away from the capital for so long today, even though the technology would make it possible.

Chancellor Otto von Bismarck has already done it this way: In April 1877, he leaves his office in Berlin and sets off for his country residence in Pomerania. He stayed there for a full ten months to recover from the hardships of the past few years. He continues the state business from there.

Is Virtual Government Better Government?

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Could it be that we would be better governed today if the head of state simply took Bismarck's liberties? And maybe you don't have to spend most of your time in Berlin to work? Because she actually runs a virtual one Team: Telephone calls, short messages, video conferences, eMails - used dozens of times a day.

There is no lack of suitable technology. But why is it that some virtual teams are successful and others are not? The answer is: the rules of communication. Even a non-virtual team that meets every day in the same office wing will not become one Success have if it does not follow fundamental rules of communication.

Rule 1: Four levels

When I communicate, I transport not only material content, but much more: how I present myself, my relationship with the recipient and what I want to achieve with my counterpart. This is no different for a personal conversation than for one eMail.

When the passenger says to the driver: "It is green!", He connects the request to leave, while in the driver's ear it sounds more like: "You are not paying attention. You're a bad driver. ” If the team has not learned to see and use the four communication levels (factual level, self-disclosure level, relationship level, appeal level), it becomes difficult - whether virtual team or not.

Besides these Regulate, which apply to all teams, virtual teams face completely different challenges, first of all the technical ones: As a member of a virtual team, I remember many a video conference of which I only heard more than twenty percent because the acoustics were miserable and some participants were not even visible in the picture.

Rule 2: Channels and rhythms

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Despite best intentions, the team fails when it chooses inappropriate channels. This applies especially to virtual communication. As the team spreads across multiple time zones, asynchronous media like eMail or newsgroups as opposed to synchronous media like phone calls or videoconferencing.

Not only the channel, but also the rhythm of the interaction is crucial. A virtual team needs more interaction because it's harder to create proximity. The weekly videoconference will only become a Success factor, if all participants are always actively addressed and express themselves. If everyone meets in the same room, the team leader will react, if someone falls asleep, he will not even hear it online.

Anyone who communicates with each other mainly via technical media is cut off from classic corridor radio. One is all the more important Online-Profile for each team member: It contains personal information such as function, location, availability as well as a photo and a few hobbies. I can already address the right addressee and have for the often underestimated Small Talk Found the topic hook right away. Not just the factual level - all four communication levels can be used.

Rule 3: No Teamchef without communication competence

Without modern communication technology no virtual team works. But only the technology to provide, is not enough. Communication needs to be organized to a much greater extent. This is where the team boss is in demand, because he determines the rules. He can have these developed by his team, but he has to make sure that suitable rules are determined and everyone sticks to them.

One of these rules leads into the non-virtual Welt: Getting to know each other accelerates team development. Especially at the beginning, the direct coming together helps Teambuilding. Conference calls get bumpy when participants don't attend the voice recognize. A face-to-face meeting as a kick-off facilitates further interaction.

Until a team develops its full potential, it usually goes through three phases: the determination phase, the dispute phase and the regulation phase. Only then does it reach the fourth, the performance phase. Virtual teams working in different locations act, go through these phases as well. However, a single site does not necessarily reach the next phase at the same time as another site. Such an asynchronous history doesn't make it any easier. It is important to recognize this and then intervene at the necessary points via the appropriate communication channels.

Rule 4: The most severe technique against working stress

Bismarck also led a virtual team. To this end, he used the latest technology: post coaches, riding messengers, letters and telegraphic despatches.

Our increasingly flexible and virtual one Working world today gives us the opportunity to better reconcile private interests with professional ones and thus lead a life with less work stress. Bismarck as a role model? One of his biographers calculated that the Chancellor was on vacation for half of his term in office.

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