Virtual Team: 4 Questions to Identify your Allies Part 1

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Given the changing nature of the work environment, many of us are now working from home or are at the least part of a virtual team. This means that some (if not many) of our critical stakeholder relationships are remote. If we are losing face-to-face time, how can we create and maintain Ally relationships? My answer: get intentional and be vulnerable.

According to Morag Barrett, in the book Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships, there are four questions that can help identify if you are in an Ally relationship:

  1. Can I count on you?
  2. Can I depend on you?
  3. Do I care about you?
  4. Do I trust you?

Following are some ideas on how to move toward Ally relationships with remote team members and get a resounding “yes!” to each of these questions.

1. Can I count on you? 

This question is transactional and reactive in nature. Do you do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it? This is the baseline for any relationship, but even more critical in a virtual team. If you do not get this right, it is difficult to move into a more complex and trusting relationship.

How to get a “yes”:

  • Respond to requests (even if you do not have an answer). A good rule of thumb is if you cannot respond to a phone call or email within 1 -2 days, send a response that buys you more time (i.e. renegotiate deadlines as needed or let them know you are working on it and when you will respond). This does create another step in the process, which may require a bit more time and potentially more emails. However, it will alleviate miscommunication and mistrust going forward.
  • Flip side: Try not to judge those who do not respond in your desired time frame. There are times when others do not respond to email right away – maybe they do not know the answer, miss it among the 1,000 other emails, have a question before responding, or quickly see the email on the way to another meeting (or during another meeting), etc.… There are a variety of reasons why we do not get the response we are waiting for, AND It is in our nature to assume that the receiver has seen it and doesn’t agree or is purposely ignoring us. Do not create a wedge in the relationship in your own head. If you do not get the response you are waiting for, it is best to give the receiver the benefit of the doubt and try again with a different mode of communication.

2. Can I depend on you? 

This question is also transactional but more proactive. Do you step up when you see a need or do you wait for your co-workers to ask for help? Do you anticipate the needs of others?

How to get a “yes”:

  • Share online calendars. This simple action can quickly allow your virtual team to see what is going on for others and enable them to proactively look for opportunities to help one another. This creates a shared understanding of the workload and how urgently help may be needed.
  • Check in with others and see if you can help. I recently called one of my colleagues and found her in tears. She was having a “worst.week.ever” moment based on a series of unfortunate events, and I would never have known if I had not picked up the phone and called her. I was able to listen and also find out how I could help. One of the aspects of having an Ally Mindset is to show Abundance and Generosity to others. Simply offering your time (even though you already are most likely overbooked) demonstrates that you truly believe there is enough time for everyone on the team to be successful.
  • Flip side: Ask for help! Give others the opportunity to be there for you – this will immediately build the confidence in the relationship. If you don’t ever ask for help, others will assume you don’t need it – which keeps you in a downward spiral (especially if you really do need help!). There is nothing worse than sitting in your office alone freaking out about something and not being able to talk to anyone about it.

Next week I’ll share the steps to get to ‘yes’ for the final two questions.

If you are looking for more resources to help you cultivate Ally relationships and your professional network then join our new Cultivate@Work Field Guide.

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