Communication Challenges in Virtual Teams

The most common challenge that stems from working in a virtual team is a lack of communication.

This develops roots from never meeting the other team members in person. When we work virtually, unless we frequently meet with our team in person, we do not develop a binding working relationship as quickly as we would when we walk/talk/breathe the same office air on a daily basis.

I believe several steps can prevent this sense of poor communication in a virtual setting:

  1. Hold regular meetings (online group settings)
  2. Ensure each team member is involved in the meetings
  3. Management should view this as beneficial to the team, and encourage honest and open communication

As well as recurrent meetings, invest in an online resource where members can learn about each other and build trust. This could be as simple as a place to check in and say hello each morning. “Hey, I had a great weekend!” “Good morning team! I know, I am working too many hours than what is healthy, but these client projects are on my radar!” This type of online resource creates a sense of team!

Personally, as a virtual assistant, the sense of being a part of a team is both inspiring and encouraging! It keeps in the forefront a sense of who and what we are working towards! (Of course, we’re always working towards helping a business succeed. But this adds the who and why to the equation…it is icing on the cake!)

Celebrate successes! Yes. Who wants to hear about the negatives and nothing else? Remember, we want to surround ourselves with positive people, and we want to work in a positive environment. Positive environments incubate business growth.

Find a system that helps team members develop a sense of collaboration. Team members do not work as a single entity. We work as a piece of a working unit. A single piece may break down if it has no sense of connection with the other working parts. Think of the role as gears. What makes gears turn? Other gears.

I hope these tips help you either develop your virtual team, or helps you as a team member who may be feeling a shortage of communication! I believe in making constructive recommendations. Perhaps something I’ve said will help you clarify and pass the word on.

 

Customer Service No-No’s and the Alternatives

I am not a fan of today’s customer service standards. There are some businesses that outshine others in that respect, though. I must give credit where credit is earned.

Here are my top customer service no-no’s (and suggested alternatives):

  • I have no idea. (I don’t know, but I can help you find out.)
  • I cannot do that for you. (But, I will find out who can.)
  • Stop, and let me speak. (Please tell me what you need, and then I’ll see what I can do for you.)
  • You’ve done that all wrong. (Listen before you interject. UNDERSTAND what the REAL problem is first.)
  • I don’t know why you want that. (Because that is what the customer wants. No opinions or questions needed.)

We recently dealt with trying to get fast speed internet hooked up, and this process took three days. The first technician was not truthful. He said the box at the pole was dead. He assured us that a cherry-picker truck would show up the next day to make the box replacement. As he backed out of our drive, he hit that very same pole and damaged his company-owned work van. He went back to work and did not place the work order, so the box was not replaced the following day. He told his employer that his van was damaged by a hit-and-run driver (which we found out through sheer accident). This is an extreme example of bad customer service. The moral: lies never work. Lies are always uncovered. If you cannot do the job, or don’t want to do the job, you find someone else that can and will do the job. Period.

Listen to your customers. Hear what they have to say. Do not assume you know what they are going to say. One small deed of good customer service goes a long way (to a better experience, and a better world in general). Your efforts in customer service are not just applied towards the dollars that you earn per hour, they apply to the world that you hold in the palm of your hand at that very moment. That, my dears, creates good customer service.

How do you improve customer service/the lives of others? How do you pay it ahead (and isn’t that what it is all about)?

 

Where Do You Want to Be a Decade from Now?

About 16 months ago, my husband and I started looking at where we wanted to be for the next decade of our lives. This thought process was filled with feelings of freedom. We weren’t looking at life as it stood that very moment, we were focused on our future!

Where did we want to be?

I am facing 6-0 in a few months, and even though I do not feel my age, I know that I am tired of the fast-paced hustle bustle merry-go-round, and I also want to provide a lifestyle to myself, to us as a couple, as well as a reflection for others to see that they can paint, create, and live their dreams as well.

So, we began the process of deciding where and how we wanted to live. This past week, we moved to Waco. We got out of Austin – a very popular city, but crammed with traffic and growth.

We downsized. We minimized. We left our full-time work and planned our businesses so that we could blend family and play back into our lives.

We looked at the next decade, and figured out how we wanted to live it out. When we turn 70, our hope is to be able to say, “I enjoyed the past 10 years!,” rather than, “Why did I work so much? I am now tired!” What is more important than that? Not a lot.

This makes me think of my favorite motto, that I’ve spoken many-many times to others this year, “Take care of you!” God didn’t give us this life to not do that. Take care of you. 

 

Who or What is a Creative?

I have been thinking about businesses and people that call themselves “creatives.” What exactly is a creative? creative person, creative business, a creative

The first example of creativity that comes to my mind is art—painting, sculpting, designing (jewelry, furniture, rooms). Today, though, the description of creative goes beyond that.

Wikipedia.org says it well:

creative professional who is also known as a creative specialist is a person who is employed for the extraction of skills in creative endeavors.

But still, there are many definitions that can fall within the sphere of “creative endeavors.” Take this article posted on Playground, Inc. The list of creative businesses in this article are vast: engineers, graphic designers, art directors, consultants, advertising, and digital. One of the values of these types business identified is innovative. I notice that writing is not a part of this article. In my estimation, it should be.

As a virtual assistant, I feel the need to be innovative in all of my work. This includes writing, but it also includes social media and administrative work—actually, most everything that I do (including graphics). If I am not creative, a couple of things happen. First, I don’t use my imagination, so I just “do” what is in front of me. I don’t think beyond the task at hand. It becomes meticulous, boring, and I don’t give my client’s my best side. If I allow my creative mind to flow, I work much better. I treat my client’s needs as if they were my own. I take ownership, and I work with flare and enthusiasm. I do this with an open mind, and this leads me to identify and make recommendations for change, or to go beyond the call of duty.

As a creative I ask questions as I work: Can I make this sound better? Can I make this look better? What atmosphere do, or can, I create? When I look at the task at hand with fresh eyes, as if I were the designer, I see beauty in most everything. That is being a creative.

Tell me, what is your idea of a creative? How do you blend it into your day-to-day work, or do you?

 

Systems are Key to Business Growth

The development of systems within a small business is key to growth. Action Steps to Success_1. Be consistent2. Be accountable3. Develop processes4. Repeat all of the above (1)

To succeed, people cannot depend upon memory alone. Most of us (entrepreneurs and employees alike) do not have enough time on our hands to stop and leisurely think each time a new project or problem lands on our desk.

Systems are incredibly important to have in place for:

  • client or customer intake (welcome processes, contracts)
  • prospect tracking (contact information/identify main possibilities) Don’t get lost in the graveyard of paper copies! 
  • marketing (marketing steps, social media calendars)
  • expense tracking (bookkeeping system)
  • note taking (in a planner – notebook, etc., track fresh ideas, thoughts, anything or everything that can be forgotten) Get it out of your head!
  • instructions for assistant (with written systems in place you can virtually train anyone to help with everyday business functions) You cannot do it on your own forever! 
  • problem solving (i.e. What did you do the last time you experienced that problem with a customer? What steps did you take to resolve that issue: mail, phone, email?) Don’t make the same mistake twice. 

Of course, this list is not inclusive.

Early on, as soon as you start a business, set your processes manual in place. This doesn’t mean you have to use an old school 3-ring binder and develop a binder of written procedures. Ensure you have a designed central location in place to record and track what you do, step-by-step, and why you do it.

On a regular basis, review your processes, don’t get stuck in a rut. Determine if there is a way to automate a process. Question if the process necessary. Does the process slow production down? How can the process be polished to perfection? Ask others, such as a virtual assistant, to review your process(s). A second pair of eyes, and an open ear (yours), sets motion in place for improvement. 

Consistency leads to the development of an organized and systematic approach to running your business, which results in growth.