I was invited to join a team today, and was surprised by the statement of the leader that we would not be leveraging any collaboration tools, but rather just the "reply all" function in email. Ugggggghhhh!!! I had an immediate visceral reaction... "Not me! I don't want an onslaught of unconnected messages in my email! I work hard to be effective and efficient in all aspects of life and work, and don't want this to muck it up. I've got too much to do already!"
As with many of the teams we all get asked to participate on, this team is a great opportunity to contribute to work that is important to me, and get exposure to peers and a leader I respect and could learn from. So I should just get over it right?
What I noticed about myself in this situation is that only working with teams that are open to using modern technology for effective collaboration is now a stand for me. For years I have worked to help the teams I am on adopt new technology, and certainly this is one of the core aspects of creating high performing team that I work on with business leaders. I have quit teams and organizations before because they were ineffective and frustrating (including how they collaborated online.) But this is the first time I have the clarity to say, when I have a choice, I will only participate with groups, organizations and teams that are willing to go to the effort to adopt and use discussion groups, wikis, and other tools outside of email.
I am a self admitted change junky- I thrive on finding and adopting new ways to work. So, I am not the norm here. As a leader, you probably don't have to worry too much about people like me deserting your organizations in mass. BUT, if you are leading a virtual team, and you are not leveraging these tools, there probably are people on your team who are feeling this frustration.
More importantly.... you are missing a fantastic opportunity as a leader! Great teams not only accomplish their mission effectively, but connect people and provide insights on new tools and practices. Yes, it is change; and as a leader, you will have to put some effort into helping people learn and let go of old habits. I don't understimate or dismiss that. The good news, is once you get people going on it, the amount of effort will lessen the next time you charter a team.
It is inevitable that effective virtual collaboration will be required for leaders of the future. Last night I came across an Executive Summary for anew book about it: Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration. Check it out!
If you are a member of a team or group that needs to collaborate effectively consider these actions:
- Be open and willing to try new practices: it may take a little more effort upfront but you will get exposure to new tools you WILL need for future effectiveness.
- If you are comfortable with online tools, identify someone on the team that is not and set up a 1-1 session and share your insights.
- Make an offer to help the leader institute these practices.
- Speak up, take a stand if you are frustrated. Make a difference!