We’re all familiar with that sinking feeling — the one you get when you’re assigned to a project with someone who’s disorganized and inconsiderate, if not downright rude. After all, it only takes one person to derail a group from hitting deadlines and delivering top quality results.
Of course, you’re not THAT person, the one nobody wants on their team. But as virtual work becomes commonplace, even the most thoughtful among us find it all too easy to run afoul of collaboration etiquette. Communications and collaboration solutions, like Mitel Teamwork, enable teams to work more efficiently, but at the same time, integrated tools such as chat, document sharing and video conferencing are giving rise to new rules of etiquette in the virtual workspace.
Collaboration etiquette is often underappreciated and yet so vital for team effectiveness. In fact, soft skills – like the ability to work well with others – are so important that employers say they’re more desirable than hard skills, such as proficiency in accounting or coding. In a recent Financial Times survey, which aimed to identify the most in-demand skills of MBA graduates, 64 percent of employers said the ability to work on a team is the most important skill they look for, while 54 percent said it was the ability to work with a wide variety of people.
64 percent of employers said the ability to work on a team is the most important skill they look for.
What does it take to be a considerate virtual collaborator? It’s a combination of soft skills, communications and collaboration technology and an awareness of the new rules of etiquette. These five tips will ensure you are the team player everyone will fight to work with.
1. Be a hero: Break down silos
Collaboration doesn’t work very well if everyone doesn’t have access to the same details and up-to-date information. A considerate virtual collaborator sets up a virtual workspace that’s dedicated to each specific project. Every project contributor should have access, be able to upload relevant documents and share feedback instantly in one place, using web chat.
To take it a step further, look for a virtual workspace that allows team members to create or join conference calls with a single click, so when points aren’t being understood, you can easily pick up the phone to keep moving forward instead of scheduling a follow up meeting. Avoid wasted effort and misaligned goals by breaking down silos, literally and figuratively.
2. Don’t waste team time
Many of us have come to dread meetings. How many times have you sat in a conference room or listened on your phone while asking yourself, “What’s the point?” We’ve all been there.
A considerate collaborator doesn’t confuse meetings with status updates. Skip the time suck of a status meeting by using a virtual workspace to tag relevant team members, alerting them to project updates and basic information. In this way, you use your meeting time more effectively, focusing instead on only the more complex issues you need to discuss as a group.
Another time-saving tip: Set a clear agenda for every meeting, share it ahead of time and stick to it. Include the time allotted for each item, so you can reel the conversation back if it goes off on a tangent. Meeting tools like MiCloud Connect come with an Agenda Tracker so you can easily stick to the schedule!
3. Respect the distance
In the modern workplace, collaboration doesn’t happen in one conference room. It happens in three conference rooms in different office locations, on mobile devices and at home. More than ever before, project collaborators are on the go, relying on mobile collaboration apps to connect with teammates.
However, one of the pitfalls of mobility is that collaborators aren’t always aware if a team member is traveling on business or at a resort on vacation. Some organizations set rules for respecting a co-worker’s time away from the office, making it inconsiderate to ping them continuously with questions. But if you don’t know when a colleague is out of the office, how can you know when you might be bothering them?
Collaboration tools make it easier for colleagues to check the status or presence of other team members — and know when it’s appropriate to contact them. A considerate collaborator checks presence first, and if their colleague is unavailable, they look for the next person in line who can help.
Another tip: Ensure your presence is up-to-date, with an out of office message set up through your communications system to warn colleagues of delays or vacation time.
4. TMI: Sharing isn’t always caring
Ever been stuck on a “reply all” email chain that has nothing to do with you? How frustrating does it feel when you finally stop paying attention to an endless thread of irrelevant replies, only to discover you missed a piece of information that was important to you? While team members always need access to the right information, they don’t need to be bothered with every little detail.
Clean up your team’s inboxes by making use of your collaboration tool to engage relevant team members in one-to-one or group chats. Streamline the conversation further within a workspace with @ mentions, which let you tag just the person you need, or with @all for information that affects the whole group.
Chat notifications, particularly when one-to-one or directed with an @ mention, are a more powerful way to get people’s attention when, and only when, you actually need it.
That strikes the perfect balance between keeping people informed and overloading them with excess details.
5. Stay on track with tasks
Successful groups are filled with people who know exactly what their jobs are. Formal task assignments tell them what they need to do and when it needs to be done. With task-oriented collaboration software, team leaders assign individual tasks while also getting a bird’s eye view of all assignments within a workspace. The considerate collaborator adjusts workloads when too many tasks overlap and keeps the overall project on track.
The good news is that the skill employers most desire – “the ability to work on a team” – is also one of the least difficult to hire for. That means most of us aren’t THAT person. The etiquette tips above, along with the right collaboration software, will help everyone on your team earn the mantle of “considerate collaborator.”