When Voice over a Telephone is the Team Member
“Dinesh, when are you giving me the code delivery ETA?” Manager asked Dinesh.
“I told you earlier, I didn’t get access to code repository yet. I didn’t see the code at all. How can I estimate the work?” Dinesh replied.
“I don’t know. I need it done by this Friday,” the manager yelled and hung up.
It was the middle of 2020. Dinesh, a Software Engineer, was wondering what happened to the team he had been working with. The team started working from home more than two months before. After the initial hiccup, the team settled down quite a bit. But Dinesh started realizing that something is lost from the team. Was it the communication channel? Was it the trust between the team members? Dinesh was not very sure.
This is a common problem in teams that are working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What can we do better to make sure that the virtual teams are really teams?
Empathy is an English word we can look up in the dictionary, but with one of the most difficult meanings to practice and to live with. “Vicarious” is also another English word; lots of life experiences can not be understood vicariously. Every moment we need to undertake continuous practice to be a better human being, a primary condition for a genuinely good team player.
Cognitive Biases are influencing whatever we think, decide and talk about. All the time. Theoretical knowledge about those biases may be of no help. My truth is governed by my background, experiences, and impulses. At times, validation through rational judgment by mentors or bona fide colleagues might be needed to minimize the impacts of biases in behaviors.
Bridge of Trust
The Bridge of Trust is something we need to build, maintain, and reinforce within the team. Until and unless there is an established bridge of trust within the team, there will be blame games. No escape.
Diversity and Inclusiveness
Diversity and Inclusiveness are two words that are much talked about nowadays. One needs to realize the value of these two words and to believe in the organizational goals. No training can really make the employee practice these principles to their fullest potential until and unless these core values get impregnated within the employee.
Globally Distributed teams are always a challenge. Now, every team member working remotely makes this problem slightly more complicated. We need to be mindful of time zones, cultural practices, and the like.
Body Languages are non-existent when team communication takes place over a telephonic communication bridge. Video communication tools may work better. It may not have a very positive impact if we really don’t work on filtering out cognitive biases interfering with our perceptions.
The list can grow longer. When we say our team is one family in a collocated in-person environment, a couple of happy hours could have worked well. But when we say the same in a virtual set-up, we really need to feel it and must work towards making it happen.