Knowing you, knowing me…. Ah ha!

Why face to face contact is important for teams, and are there any other team-building alternatives?

I just came back from a pretty productive face to face conference with my organization. We were able to learn a great deal. For me the personal contact with others and getting to know more about them or how to work best with them is extremely important.  However, considering what we’ve learned about global warming the and the implication of air travel; how can we still maintain this personal contact on a global sense?

Understanding or reading someone’s face while they’re speaking is key to learning about them.  Last year at an internal eLearning conference we were able to hear Elliot Masie speak. He shared a few examples of video conference devices with visual input and output.   At the time I thought, my company will never come up with the budget for that sort of tech for all it’s employees or at least the global workers. They’ll think it’s too frivolous.  Also, from the examples I’ve seen of streaming video output, I’m not altogether convinced that the technology is easily usable. Also, if you’re camera-awkward like myself, talking into a video camera is not the same as talking to someone face to face.   You feel more like a T.V. reporter than a person just conversing with a group of people.

There are also other ways that you can learn about the people you work with, merely through conversation which can happen on the phone.  Note: this won’t happen if you focus on only the agenda and tasks in meetings. Having a profile page for each person which includes both their business (and or technical) expertise areas, their current/past projects and (if available) link to their work blog can provide others on the team with a starting point for learning about people.  On my work profile page, in addition to my own blog, I include links to my favorite blogs or sites as well as links to some fun photos and some of my favorite recipes. 

I’ve actually shared profile pages with other people at work, and it’s a great way to get to know others.  We use an internal MediaWiki powered wiki to post our profiles. In a sense, it’s a cheap-cheap version of Facebook. Note: must insert caveat here… always make sure whatever you’re sharing is ‘work-appropriate.’ 

Here’s one more warning about personal sharing via profile pages. If you’re a manager, don’t mandate that people need their own profile pages with ‘fun-stuff’ posted.  Once something is thrust upon us it is no longer ‘fun.’  With those individuals you probably need other ways to get to know them despite the distance or global divide.

I’m an extremely big fan of Steve Coogan’s work.I had to steal the title of his show for this blog posting. Who
is Alan Partridge? He’s sort of an inappropriate yet lovable
incarnation of a Robin-Leech-type persona. 
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