miércoles, 8 de septiembre de 2010

Communication & Virtual Teams


Communication is a shared or common meaning, key to social support in two dimensions: interpersonal and technological communication.

Interpersonal Communication

This is the base to form relationships and to keep them, therefore is not replaceable by technology. It’s conformed by 4 elements: the communicator, the message, perceptual screens and the receiver.

• Reflective listening

It’s all about listening carefully to another person in order to reduce distortions or misunderstandings and ensure the meaning of the message. It considers emotions as part of the message.

Verbal response to Reflective listening: affirming contact, paraphrasing, clarifying the implicit, silence, eye contact.

Communication and Managers

1. Expressive speakers

They openly express their thoughts, opinions, ideas and feelings. They are usually extroverted people. The result of being an expressive speaker is that your employees will know where they stand.

2. Empathetic listeners

This type of manager is willing to listen, is patient and responsive and is concerned about others without taking responsibility for their actions or problems.

3. Persuasive leader

They try to persuade instead of being directive and autocratic. They encourage others to achieve results.

4. Sensitivity to feelings

This manager is sensitive to others feelings and self-image, can adopt a critical perspective and provide – in confidence – negative feedback in a constructive way.

5. Informative managers

These managers are all about the dissemination of information but appropriately and selectively, in order to keep employees well informed and avoid information overload.

Principles of effective communication:
• Clarity: avoid ambiguity
• Objective: the purpose of the message
• Understanding: awareness of the ”full picture”
• Consistency: avoid conflict
• Completeness: include relevant information
• Feedback: two-way process
• Time: adequate timing

Defensive and Non-defensive Communication

ü Aggressive
ü Confrontational
ü Angry
ü Attacking

ü Assertive
ü Direct
ü Powerful
ü Constructive + healthy
ü Individuals who are: centered, informative, realistic

There are two forms of Defensive communication:

1. Subordinate defensiveness: It’s characterized by passive, passive-aggressive and submissive behavior. It is usually related to low self-esteem and people have the tendency to adopt this attitude of “you’re right, I’m wrong”
2. Dominant defensiveness: people show a more active behavior, more aggressive in nature and offensive. People have this attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

Like in everything else an effective communication finds barriers in its application and development. Barriers like the common language, sometimes or most of the times in an international work place we don’t always speak the same language; relating to language there are also semantic barriers, this is when we have the same word or similar but with different meanings or interpretations, also poor vocabulary and punctuation can become barriers for an effective communication.

There are also physical barriers like noise, a different conception of time and its importance also the difference in time zones, physical distance between and ways of linking the communicator and the receiver, age in aspects like maturity, educational background stereotypes and diverse interests and gender.

And thirdly there are the social-psychological barriers like status which refers to the social ranking involving elements like salary, abilities, seniority and age; there’re also the attitudes and values which influence the perception and interpretation of the message; the different perceptions people have can affect the way we see things and understand them; abstracting is also a barrier. It consists of the receiver abstracting from the message only what it considers to be relevant for him/her. An important barrier in communicating effectively is close-mindness, here our prejudices come to play, also feelings of superiority or inferiority, neglecting people and ideas.


“Groups of geographically, organizationally and/or time dispersed workers brought together by information technologies to accomplish one or more organization tasks”[1]
Powell et all., 2004

These teams must fulfill certain characteristics to be called virtual like for example its members must be geographically dispersed over different time zones, their communication must be possible through communication technologies, they are all driven by the same purpose, the team it’s not permanent, it’s usually of a small size, some of the members may be from different companies and they must be involved in cross boundary cooperation

There are different types of virtual teams and they all differ in terms of the number of people and the degree of interaction.

Telework: It’s all about telecommuting; it’s usually done outside the work place (fully or partially). It presents several advantages to the companies thinking of incurring in this, for instance it can be cost and time saving, it can allow workers to access the information from a remote location and it offers flexibility.

Virtual groups

A virtual group is a combination of a number of Teleworkers, who all report to the same boss, and they don’t have the same goals or objectives, they perform independent tasks and activities.

So a virtual team happens when the members of a virtual group interact with each other and this time they do have common goals.

Virtual Communities

They are larger entities usually initiated by one of the members. The member participation is done online and they also have common purposes, roles and norms.

What advantages do the virtual teams offer? Well they offer relocation of time and costs, they can link experts together even if they are in different locations, and they also enhance productivity making the time it takes to develop a new product smaller. They offer flexibility as well, as new changes are easier to introduce.

But they also may have some potential disadvantages like maybe the technology is very expensive to implement, the conceptual understanding of situation face to face is compromised, self-monitoring employees are needed, conflicts may arise over power, mistrust, etc.

What must a virtual team deliver to be effective? In the area of communication it must receive constant feedback, there must be clarity in the message and the communication must be on a constant. There must be understanding, meaning sensitivity, a value of opinions and empathy towards others. The role must be clear, the responsibilities, who has the authority and who is accountable; and leadership must be shown, assertiveness, good relationship building and keeping and consistency are mandatory requirements.

“If InterContinental were a sound….

The use of sound in a marketing strategy seems like a pretty good idea. It’s something that not everybody does and it can bring a greater degree of brand loyalty and association to any product or company. But can this be easily done? Can it be applied to any product or brand?

The experiment done by InterContinental and their idea to create a unique sound to identify the brand shows us that it is a good idea and that it can be very successful, but on the other hand it also shows the difficulty of achieving this goal.

As mentioned before it can bring advantages to any company, because it just adds to a brand or product. If your brand has a very well identifiable logo, or slogan or color and you add a sound, your brand equity will definitely grow making your brand much more competitive. The possible disadvantages that this may have is that sometimes a sound does not send a clear message about your brand or product, it can be not easily related to the product or even hurt its market positioning. But like I said before, when done properly it can be very successful and a great addition to the brand, so this poses more a challenge for the team in charge of making this happen, especially the area of communication.

Communication is all about a shared or common meaning, so we have a big challenge right off the back. We have to find a way to really capture the essence of our brand and our product in order to effectively communicate it to the public through sounds, so we might even come to the realization that a sound is not the proper strategy for our product.

Once decided to go with the sound and having identify a good option for it, now we must see if this sound sends a clear message of who we are, and here is where perceptions and the different ways people interpret something come to play, and they do play a significant role on whether this idea is a successful one or a failure. The company must pay close attention to what exactly are they saying with this sound or song, because for some people it can bring back a feeling of relaxation but for other just annoyance, or it can have a luxurious feel to some people but for others it may just be pretentious. And the message that you send with the sound must also be consistent with that of the other brand elements that make the product.

Other challenges may arise when you take into consideration some barriers that an effective communication face, like for instance age or gender, because the music that older like may not be the same young people like, or gender, men usually don’t like the same music as women. But when all this challenges are met and overcome, a sound strategy is great plus to have on your brand because sometimes it reaches more people, now radio is a great way to advertise the product without needing words or anything else but the sound.

[1] Source: Ebrahim, Nader Ale, Shamsuddin Ahmed, and Zahari Taha. 2009. "Virtual Teams: a Literature Review." Australian Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences 3, no. 3: 2653-2669.

Graphic: Adapted from Cascio & Shurygailo (2003) in Ebrahim, Nader Ale, Shamsuddin Ahmed, and Zahari Taha (2009).

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