Having strong relationships, trust, and shared understanding result in a high level of collaboration.
|Source: Adapted from "The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams"|
What is collaboration?
According to Wikipedia definition “Collaboration” is working with each other to do a task. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective — for example, an endeavour that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group. In particular, teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and reward when facing competition for finite resources
TRUST – A SUBSTITUTE FOR CONTROL
Trust is important for every cooperation, but even more critical when working virtually. Do you know that a small increase in trust of management is similar to receiving a 36% pay increase. And if the same amount of trust is lost, the decline in employee job satisfaction is similar to taking 36% pay cut! (Heliwell &Huang, 2005).
Trust can be divided into the following categories:
Cognitive Based (someone has the skills/competency, so we trust him).
Institution Based (trust in organisation we are a part of - we believe in norms & share the same values).
Personality Based (individual’s disposition to trust. For example I trust until I’m proven wrong)
TRANSACTIONAL TRUST – the foundation for virtual collaboration!
Transactional trust is mutual in nature (you have to give it to get it) and created step by step over time. There are 3 types of transactional trust:
Ø Contractual. The team members understand what is expected from them, roles and responsibilities are clear, commitments are kept or renegotiated.
Ø Communication. Trust and communication are closely related. Sharing information, telling the truth, speaking with good purpose.
Ø Competence. We believe in the team members’ skills and competences and allow to make decisions. Leaders help the team to learn new skills
Contractual trust outlines the directions, determine roles and responsibilities, and helps make expectations clear. Communication trust helps define standards for information flow, sharing information, giving/receiving feedback. Competence trust allows team members develop skills/competences, including the virtual collaboration skills. Communication, particularly meaningful dialogue among members, may be the most effective tool that organisations can rely on to build trust in virtual teams (Holton, 2001).
We become more accountable only when we understand how our work contributes to the end result. Similar to developing trust communication is a key tool in developing a shared understanding.
DEPTH OF RELATIONSHIPS
Challenge: lack of personal interaction, face-to-face time is critical!
Sharing personal information creates a feeling of inclusion. Relationships are based on reputation or familiarity. Working virtually requires trust and to trust we need to know one another, that’s why it’s crucial we spend some time on sharing the information and getting know one another as it does not happen as it does in a face-to-face environment!
- Create Face- to-face opportunities or face-to face substitute – telepresence /videoconferencing
- Share personal information – example team members interviews
- Build/maintain relationships
- Create a forum for open dialogue – ex: FB-like space for both task and personal-related communication
- Educate on virtual collaboration
- Ensure that you are comfortable raising issues and giving feedback
- Deal with conflict right away and focus on problem not person
- Experiment with different ways of staying in contact
- Make it easy for your team to contact you
- Spend time learning about team members’ personalities, cultural backgrounds, and work habits
- Select appropriate technology
- Understand the cultural differences
For more read Karen Cator’s article where she shares her key strategies how to “create a culture that enables people to connect individually and emotionally to the organization’s goals while connecting socially and positively with each other as the way to achieve them.”