Podcast interview on global and virtual teams

Thanks for Bas de Baar for proposing this chat on global and virtual teams and for the honor of his first audio interview.  The link to Bas’s post is here.

A little background… Bas and I had a great conversation on the topics as a warm-up for the interview.  Unfortunately, as we started to transition to the formal discussion, some Skype gremlins hit.  Fortunately, Bas had forwarded the questions — and I had bothered to prep a bit — so the recording ended up sounding coherent.  I guess that the “6 P’s” and a bit of risk response planning do work!

Of course, the interview was supposed to be 10 minutes and it is just over 20.  Hmmm… I wonder if I was confirming this PM myth.  Maybe you should think of it as a “gold-plating special”,  just perfect for you insomniacs!

I am powerless over my Blackberry…

But I’m glad to say that my life isn’t unmanageable.  Or at least I can’t blame its unmanageability on my BB, so I identified with Karen Dillon’s post (here) and especially this passage:

Even now, sometimes when I can’t sleep, I get up and check e-mail at odd hours of the night. It’s not because of stress, it’s because it helps my mind focus on something other than what woke me up.

My Blackberry is fundamental to the flexible work arrangements that blur my personal and professional lives (see this Stew Friedman post here and my post here).  I also hate having a full inbox, so I like the ability to prune when possible (and react if necessary).  Perhap I occasionally sneak a too-frequent peek at the BB when on mostly personal time; however, luckily my wife is assertive enough to point it out (and tactful enough to not rub it in).

However, when all else fails, I’ve not forgotten where the off button is!

Work-Life Balance isn’t a zero-sum game

Yesterday, I linked to the Stew Friedman “Don’t Leave Your Personal Life at Home” piece (article here, blog here).  I love his big idea: that work, home, community, and self don’t need to always be in conflict.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, work and the rest of your life don’t have to compete in a zero-sum game.  The secret?  Experiment with small changes that simultaneously improve your satisfaction and performance in all four areas of your life—work, home, community, and self.

I forgot to link to his little video (about seven minutes here) and toolset (below).

  • Articulating What Matters Most — A simple four-way chart (here) to highlight which aspects of “life” are important in one’s life, the kind of focus one has on them, and the level of satisfaction for each. 
  • Planning Small Change Experiments — Again, a simple worksheet (here) to outline two-three small experiments, the sole criterion being that one should only select experiments that impact all four aspects of life.

Now, time to take my son out to run some “errands”!

Do we need to work factory hours?

I don’t think so.  Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that both my mom and my in-laws are from farm families — the idea of 8 to 5 doesn’t apply to my County Kerry or Haskell County kin.  A couple of provocative articles on the Harvard Business site explore the blurring between work and life (Do We Need Weekends? is here, Don’t Leave Your Personal Life at Home is here).

Connectivity is a bug-bear for many.  In particular, a lot of colleagues ask me about whether I like my Blackberry (I do).  The most common objection I then hear is that I’ve tethered myself to the office.  To which I say: “Do you prefer being chained to your desk”?  The ability to time shift is precious to me, well worth the cost of having to shift calls or business into “non-working” hours.

Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that the potential to be “always on” equals being “always on.”  There are of course the “ringer off” and caller ID features.  And every e-mail does not need an immediate response.  A lot of the complaints about the Crackberry would be solved by a quick Franklin-Covey time management course.  Or, heaven forbid, we might realize that every mail we’re copied on doesn’t need our contribution to the thread.

Finally, while I’m not customer-facing today, that was when I especially loved having a tether rather than a chain.  I recall one upgrade weekend where I had to be on-site, but I was able to have my wife join me for the weekend.  In the “good old days” pre-mobile or Blackberry, I would have had to stay on site on in my hotel almost the entire time.  No dinner and a movie, no personal time, etc.

Virtual workers should interview themselves first…

Sara’s post at Pajama Professional about asking yourself tough questions before starting a home business (here) made me think about the challenges of telecommuting and virtual work.  I had been tagged for an interview about the topic — I didn’t make the cut — and my team is almost entirely virtual.  The topic is always on my mind when considering current and future staffing decisions.

Anyhow, Sara’s list inspired some riffs of my own, which highlight some pitfalls of virtual employment.  One should ask these when considering remote work arrangements.  These may even make their way into my own annoying open-ended interview questions!

  • Many colleagues find virtual work challenging, why will you be successful where other candidate would not be?  Sure, this is a chance to to highlight strengths and experience, but it should also ask prompt these questions: What most attracts you to this position? What sounds least attractive?
  • Why do you want to work in an environment where your won’t be able to socialize with many your colleagues and stakeholders?  This question is one I haven’t asked, but will going forward.  Stakeholder management and communications are paramount, at least in my firm, so how will a colleague how doesn’t apparently value work relationships fare?
  • How would you rate your managerial skills? Why?  Sara’s comments below are spot on (a few bracketed mods by me): Continue reading
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