Tag Archives: global virtual teams

What is Ego?

After years and years of success in a corporate role my ego had been quite inflated until I

  1. a) moved to another country and
  2. b) started my own company several years later.

I notice an overinflated ego when I believe the world should be centered around me. Don’t get me wrong. It is ok to be self-confident, assertive and to believe in your own abilities but once in a while we need to accept that the world does not revolve around our needs alone. I think it is also healthy to learn that we are not perfect robots and that we embrace our fears and weaknesses.

Sometimes I feel offended if anyone acts as if I did not matter or if I did not have a say in a decision. Same is true if someone doubts my competence on a matter in which I feel highly competent. I hate when someone points out a mistake I made, even if it is a small one because in my self-image I don’t make “mistakes”. My self-image is that of a competent professional. However, competent and perfectionist is different. A competent person can do the job in a reasonable time. A perfectionist wastes time on detail that does not add value to the process or should be automated. Think of additional flowers you paint into a landscape.

As opposed to the image others have of you, you might feel that you do not always meet your own standards. When I am in a good mood, I tend to blame my lazy inner PA Amber Valentine, who sucks at her job.

When I am in a weak mood though (angry, hungry, lonely or tired), it could happen that a small error triggers an emotional landslide with elephant raindrops coming out of my eyes. Most of the time I later admit to myself, that most of these incidents are not about me and if I assume positive intentions, than I often see the other person’s perspective. We all just try to find solutions with the means and ideas we have at hand.

I also noticed that often we all misunderstand each other more than we actually understand each other. We easily feel criticized, when the other person tried to support or help us.

How does Ego get in the Way of Collaboration?

Once your ego has been hurt you will probably look for ways to “repair” the damage. This could happen by getting into fights with colleagues about nitty-gritty details or by showing constantly to others how superior you are too them. It’s a habit of highly intelligent colleagues, that they like to point out the flaws of an idea or that they push away an argument with a derogatory comment. (Isn’t it obvious that my argument makes sense?)

As a leader, you need to simplify and find explanations that are easy to grasp.

When you apply mathematics for example, I always liked, how one of my best math teachers in high school would teach us the way to derive the formula instead of just learning the formula (which unfortunately was often asked in business classes at university). Why would you waste brain space to learn something by heart that you can now easily recreate with a macro. If you don’t understand the macro, then you have an issue.

When you struggle with simple calculations

A few weeks ago it took me at least 15 minutes to figure out why I did not get a simple balance sheet calculation. I would say, I am good with numbers, but I need to have a bit of clarity in presentation too. This takes a bit of practice though and most of us think, that our presentation and writing is clear to others, while most of the time it is only clear to those who come from a similar background and have gone through a similar kind of education, training and practice. Someone with 20 years of work experience might judge cases more based on gut feeling than fact data. I remember hearing the same from Risk Managers, Doctors and Lawyers. I sometimes don’t know how to explain my judgement other than gut feeling so I need to rationalize it for others to understand where I am coming from.

It’s the same with delegating tasks. If you are not explicit what you need, by when and from whom you might not get anything or you only get half of what you expected. Most of the time you will therefore be disappointed by your collaborators or team members.

However, if you ego is in your way you might feel that you should be irreplaceable and you will create barriers to the flow of knowledge and barriers to collaboration. These barriers could even be sub-conscious. When we work with global, virtual teams to improve collaboration and performance, we teach you basic rules for true collaboration and we also practice ways to build trust and reduce ego-driven moves.

As a manager of such a global, virtual team, you will face challenges of compensating your team members in a fair manner and one or the other might have a better way of showing their contribution to a project and getting the credit.

Four Tips for Reducing your Ego-driven Actions

Nurture yourself: Your inner child most probably has not fully grown up yet. Nurture it and feed it. Look at your needs.

Develop collaboration principles: If you want to collaborate with others develop a common set of principles that you can fall back on in case of doubt.

Accept new tasks and projects with humbleness: Accept that you will have to learn when you move into a new role, a new project or a new task. Learning takes energy and effort. Stay humble.

Show true compassion: You could start with balancing your ego with moments of true compassion and support. Then you have a chance to become a leader, instead of a manager.

We all have old beliefs that put us under pressure. Usually, they appear as a nagging voice inside our head and often they show in our face.

1) Inner Critic

What I often notice with my clients is that their inner critic is holding them back the most. The inner critic often corrupts any new projects that we would like to engage in by rating them as silly or stupid. Often this voice also stops us from leaving an aggressive work environment.

2) Comfort Zone

For most of us, we feel comfortable at a certain career step, in a country, relationship or home. Moving out of it would mean a lot of adjustment and discomfort. We play it safe and our focus is not on opportunities but on maintaining the status quo.

3) Please the Parents

Have you ever felt a little down after spending a weekend with your parents or one of them? Could it be that you are still trying to please your parents or members of your family? Being a good daughter or a good son is fine as long as it does not mean that you are giving up your own wishes and needs. When you are over forty, it’s time your parents accept that you are not a child anymore and that guidance should turn into moral support for you and your plans.
 Energy Refill Station

4) Fear disguised as Pain

Some of us disguise fear with pain. I have to admit I have severe back pain when I am about to publish a book. Sometimes I can’t even move anymore. You might have other symptoms but most of these are just fear. Once you recognize that your fear is corrupting you via your body you can deal with this for example by learning progressive muscle relaxation.

5) Perfectionism

Wanting to be perfect and not accepting any flaws or individual styles can be a sign that you (live in Switzerland – hahaha) might have a low self-confidence. You feel that if you don’t look perfectly and if you don’t present your content in a perfect manner people won’t like you as much. I have learnt and learn it again every day that people like me more when I am honest about my little flaws, when I show them emotion as I get sad or angry about injustice, when I tell them how I have been struggling with my weight for twenty years, when I mention that I suffered from separation anxiety and other issues. People don’t connect with superheroines and superheroes. They want role models, who have a real life. Keep the fairy tales and sugar coats of the life of the royals and VIPs on Facebook. If you want to really connect with people, open up a little. (This is a pledge to my Swiss and German friends too.)

6) Lack of Purpose

Have you ever felt bored out as if you were working in a factory? I remember a summer job I did in 1989 to earn money for a holiday in Italy. I worked in our local coat hanger manufacturer (Coronet). Every time I see a coat hanger I’m reminded of those days where you did endless manual tasks that required no brain, but you had to be very fast and I never managed to beat the machine. This experience made me realize how much I wanted to go to university and work in a job, that was diverse and needed a lot of creative energy. However, in the 2000’s in HR a lot of jobs were reengineered to become more factory-like. I moved up the ladder not because I needed a career but because the jobs became so boring after eighteen months. At about the same time I read, “Calm at Work” by Paul Wilson (1997) and it changed how I viewed my work. I started to paint a vision of my future life in words. I wrote down what and who is important to me. Sometimes I look at those notes and smile. Having a long-term vision and defining your purpose in the world might help you to get out of the boredom syndrome. Or, it might just be time to move on. (Please talk to me first.)

7) Efficiency Mania

You don’t believe how many times in a week I hear my inner voice saying “This is not efficient at all”. Do you have a strong belief in efficiency? Could it be that this belief is not working in your new country, job, relationship or with your children? It might be that you need to let go of the concept of efficiency and turn towards effectivity. Efficiency is a concept that might work in production and for machines but people are no robots. You need to work with them in a way that leads to the desired outcome without overwhelming, hurting or losing them in the process. Our complex global processes and matrix organizations today often require lateral leadership and you might need to learn to let go of your notion of efficiency in order to become more effective as a global leader. I used to believe that coffee breaks with my team are a waste of time until I learnt in India that they improved the work during the day.
If you noticed any of these beliefs as barriers in your development feel free to discuss them with me in your next session or book a session on Skype with me.
You can get a glimpse of relaxation methods at our open house RELAX event on 4 June 2016.
 
Do let me know if you want to join us.

Background on Beliefs:


We have become accustomed to drama everywhere and we are used to arguing in meetings for the sake of positioning ourselves. Sometimes you just want to win over the other person’s view. It’s about who knows (insert random topic here) better than the other. On the surface. What is this really about though?
Have you ever considered that you jump into an argument easily not because you want to move forward the team and “think further and outside the box” but just because you like power? Have you considered that you are worried about losing power when you treat your team members with respect and listen to them instead of thinking that you know best of all?
I revisited the “Seven Habits of highly effective People” by Stephen Covey through this video recently. I was lucky to “win” access to one of Stephen’s talks around 13 years ago in Frankfurt. I was very impressed with him especially when he made a the full concert hall of around 5000 managers stand up, close their eyes, turn around several times and then point towards “North”. There were around 35 different options to show North.
Global Mai 13 _061
I really liked to see that one of his principles was to think “win-win” and while this often sounds a bit cliché nowadays it is still the best tactic ever.
When drama is missing from our lives this could be a sign that we have made significant progress in our inner development. Maybe we have grown up and started to take responsibility for our actions.
This is the balance we need in order to lead ourselves. If we cannot lead ourselves yet it is hard to lead others. I admire leaders who are calm and chose their actions and words deliberately.
In the corporate world I’ve seen a lot of the opposite. Department meetings often are kindergarden. After a while you can foresee the games colleagues play with each other. You can see the subtle and overt aggression they would show in their argumentation.
Many times you can see if you listen to the tone of voice rather than content that most discussions in meetings are either about ego or about relationship between two members of the group. I often hear “We argue for the sake of the company, vision or cause.” I am not sure this is true.
When you have clear roles and responsibilities, a team of grown-ups and a good leader, team members usually discuss how they can support each other get the job done. This takes trust and in my experience at least two years of relationship work.
In task-oriented cultures such as Switzerland, the relationship work is often neglected in the name of “efficiency”. It would be better to kill the term “efficiency” from your vocabulary if you work across cultures and with people with a diverse set of cultural and personal backgrounds.
If you want to become effective as a team you need to invest in the relationship level of the team members. You need to create the framework for a supportive atmosphere in which every team members feels valued and can share her view in a way that is appropriate to them.
You probably now wonder “Ok, I know that but it easier said than done.” and as so often you are hoping for the quick fix, the recipe or the shortcut to global virtual team productivity. May I take your delusions from you?
There are no shortcuts in life. Someone will always suffer if you try the quick fixes, the formula or the recipes that might work for others. You will first of all need to work on yourself. Once you are ready to be a “rounded” leader who can set aside ego and nurture a team then you can read the five tough steps to start working together.

1) Confront your fears and find a place of self-awareness within you

That is the hardest part of self-development. Often our ego is strong and demands that we nurture it daily. It is like the flesh-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”. The ego needs fodder. We have built ways of showing to ourselves that we are worthy. It could be the new certificate that you have to attain, the endorsements on LinkedIn or the positive feedback you expect in your performance reviews and your 360-evaluation. You behavior is driven by optimizing your evaluation, turnover and other KPIs. How will you learn to be self-sufficient without depending on numbers that prove you are a superhero?

2) Identify the formal roles and responsibilities of your team members

While every team needs formal roles and responsibilities most conflicts occur at the handover points. In a fully functioning and high performing team everyone also supports the other team member when they sense that the other team member is overloaded or when they feel that they have capacity. The more dispersed and virtual the team works, the harder it is to see how much capacity everyone has. It is your job as the leader to identify the gaps and to build a feedback loop where team members can openly communicate when they feel overloaded or when they do not have enough challenging work. You probably understand that every team member needs a healthy mix of challenges and routine tasks in order to be satisfied at work.

3) Unmask the informal roles of your team members

In your team you will find informal roles too. In a flatter hierarchy you might have an opinion leader who does not necessarily agree with you. You might find this team member challenging but this team member could be your greatest ally and supporter if you understood how this person needs to be led or managed. Maybe they need more encouragement, maybe they need more informal exchanges of ideas or maybe they need more structure and deadlines. You need to learn to read your team members and the informal roles they play and then adapt your management style accordingly.

4) Find out the areas of support for the team members

In my management and coaching experience I learnt that every member of a team has needs. It sometimes took me up to two years to drive a team to high performance and great collaboration. When you understand the gaps and learning steps the team member has to go through to get to the next level you will also understand how you can lead this person to success. Instead of asking them to work on projects that are way out of their capabilities you can give them small success experiences so they can grow in small steps and keep their self-confidence in tact. I have seen many good team members in other teams who were crushed and did not believe in their competencies anymore because their manager was incompetent or over confident.

5) Ensure every team member has a voice

In any intercultural team but also monocultural team you will have more introverted team members. They will not always speak up in meetings and voice their opinions. Others might just feel it is not worth to discuss further and shut up. You can use various tools and methods to give your quieter team members a voice. It also helps if you ask a neutral facilitator to support your annual kick-off meetings or other team building exercises. You might not see yourself how you hinder certain team members from voicing their opinion. Be aware of your assumptions too. When a team member is very engaged but not necessarily of the same view as you are it could be a good point to consider.
These are five tough ways to improve your collaboration in global virtual teams. In my experience this process is easier when you have a facilitator on your side. Let me know if you have any questions.

first published on www.sietar.ch.

by @angieweinberger

Values are the foundation of your global virtual team. Values are what clients feel instantly when they work with your team. They feel the connection because true values come from the heart.

If you are a leader of a global virtual team you have probably faced many intercultural challenges until your team was ready to perform. You might have underestimated the challenges of global communication under pressure or you have taken promises at face value.

When you bring your team together for an offsite you have probably already developed the team vision, mission and brand statement but have you considered your values? I am not talking about the value statement you read in the corporate magazine. I am talking about the values you and your team members all share and the ones that your clients feel.

We recently developed ten values in an intercultural team intervention. In intercultural settings values could be expected to go into various directions but when you break them down you will see that there are similarities or universal values that we all share. Research by Schwartz and Bilsky (1990) suggests that we have universal values although they research was mainly conducted in Western cultures (and Hongkong).

achievement, enjoyment, maturity, prosocial, restrictive conformity, security, self-direction

From values you can derive team principles of communication and of working together. Then in case of conflict you have principles to base your decisions on.

When working with my clients in 1:1 career or executive sessions I always build in a session on values at work. What I felt are the seven most commonly cited (this is anecdotal, not academic data) are these:

  1. Quality
  2. Client Service
  3. Collaboration
  4. Integrity
  5. Relationships
  6. Sustainability
  7. Leadership.

Let’s assume these seven values form the basis around the globe for excellence. My clients come from all continents so I am hoping there is no cultural bias here.

If you are now thinking about working on this basis with your global virtual team I’d love this approach. You just have to remember that the meaning behind these words is culturally different so in a team setting you should ask your team how they show these values at work. Ask them for examples and stories. You might get different views on Leadership and Integrity but having the discussion or collecting stories will help the team see those differences.

►Building principles

Before you can formulate team principles ensure that you are all on the same page. Suggest every team member to contribute their wording. Even if it is messy. Create a team page or social media space where you can share your wording for values.

When you develop team principles it is important that you word them in the form of „We do…“ (active and positve). Example „We support each other achieve excellent quality by giving honest feedback.“

►Take photos, videos and allow images

When you see the values at work take photos and allow your team members to create videos or graphics. Put them on your coffee cups or shared file area. Be creative.

►Aligning language of your global virtual team

When you start this exercise you might notice that the language of your team members is not always aligned. They might say similar things with different words. Aligning the language of your global virtual team means that you come up with definitions, quotes and images. I often hear people telling me they work hard but I need to understand what in means in their context. In Switzerland working hard means getting up at 5 AM and being in the office at 7 AM and leaving the office at 5 PM to work in the community fire brigade or study in the evenings or raise four kids. In the US working hard might mean working 80 hours per week no matter when. In India „working hard“ might mean coming to the office even if you are unwell or even if your family needs you at home.

►Drop the assumptions

The more I work with global virtual teams the more I would advise you to drop your assumptions or at least to critically reflect them. You might only have a glimpse of understanding of the values of your team members until you have a personal conversation at a business conference at 2 AM in the morning. Sharing values requires trust and that is only built over time by people who show their values towards their colleagues constantly.