Posts Tagged 'Teamwork'

Found in Translation… Communication between Techs and non-Techs

I found this post on how to speak to more technically savvy individuals to get what you want.  But I think communication between the more technically adept and those who are less is  a two way street.  I should preface this by saying… I am not a pure “Techie.” I sort of can figure out what is being said because I try to understand basic terminology and understand the context in which it is being used.

I still need to find a better way of describing these two groups that doesn’t sound like a division between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’  So for now I will say Techies and Non-Techies. It’s the best I can do right now… I’m not much of a wordsmith or a linguist :).

Here’s the abbreviated version of the tips for working with Techies:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Put things in writing.
  3. Be clear on jargon.
  4. Continually check the context.
  5. Come clean about being confused.

Here’s my version of the list from the tech side’s point of view:

  1. Establish their goals and needs. Help re-translate and provide examples of things that already exist if possible –> For example: have a browser open and be able to link to or find existing solutions or examples for what they’re looking for.
  2. Document what they want. At the end of every meeting capture clear statements that describe what they are asking for. Make sure that they agree to the content and directives explained in these statements.  Also, leave yourself open to explaining things off-line or separately for those who don’t want to admit that they don’t know what you’re talking about.
  3. Define vocabulary or terms that may be unfamiliar whenever possible. Take some time to gauge whether or not they understand the terms being used, but don’t be condescending. In fact, preface initial meetings by saying, “Please feel comfortable about asking us to explain technical terms or items we are sharing if you don’t know what they are or are unclear about them…”
  4. Make sure they understand what can be done and can’t be done in the context or environment you’re working with or building for them.
  5. Look for signs that the audience may be confused about what you’re talking about. As you’re providing explanation, periodically do a check for understanding.

I have little patience with any sort of divisive talk that gets people away from accomplishing needed tasks.  For me the important thing is getting a well-defined set of goals accomplished in the work that needs to be done.

Pendant with "Techie" label

What Does the Ideal Virtual Workforce Look Like?

I was talking to my manager the other day about writing some sort of article that highlights the skills and talent needed to manage a virtual team. Last year I was able to briefly describe the ideal virtual employee. I decided to come up with characteristics for both virtual managers and virtual employees.  This is what I came up with so far… I’m still working on it.

Ideal Virtual Workforce

Click on the image to view the full sized mind map

I based the qualities and behaviors of managers on several of the managers I’ve had in the past whom I felt to be highly effective. In a nutshell, I really liked/like working for these people and I’d pick up another job with them in a heartbeat if it was available.

Honestly, I feel that the first thing an effective manager of a virtual team does is hire ‘the right people.’  In a sense, half the chore of managing a team is done once they’ve hired the correct type of person. This isn’t easy, because good employees are often hard to come by, and I speak from my own experience on hiring panels in a corporate workplace. Often interviewees have been coached to “talk the talk,” and a hiring manager needs to be able to see through this. A good virtual manager will probe employees to see if they can truly demonstrate the qualities and behaviors of the “ideal virtual employee.”  Moreover, a virtual manager will request and thoroughly review a portfolio of the prospective hiree’s past work before the actual interview. They will aslo ask pointed questions about how the interviewee accomplished or made these portfolio items.

To be honest, when I enter an interview, I actually look for the behaviors I described above in the hiring manager.  I want to know that the person who’s leading me is capable of managing me and the whole team effectively. There’s nothing worse that being hired into an extremely dysfunctional team. I’ve often thought of scripting scenarios that take the best moments from interviews I’ve had with managers.  I’ve even thought of taking the best coaching moments I’ve experienced and sharing them.  So many of us have in the past worked for or currently work with poor managers, sometimes It’s good to know that there are good ones out there. While the economy is bad right now and many people might be willing to put up with working in a dysfunctional workplace, it’s still important to hire good managers (virtual or not) who encourage productive innovation. Innovation and the ability to change and adapt readily is what helps companies survive in succeed in trying times.

Addendum… thanks to Twitter, I’ve found a number of interesting articles on virtual workers:


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