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Perfect Phrases for Virtual Teamwork: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Fostering Collaboration at a Distance

Perfect Phrases for Virtual Teamwork: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Fostering Collaboration at a Distance

by Meryl Runion, Lynda McDermott

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With more and more employees working offsite, effective communication among remote team members is absolutely critical. Perfect Phrases for Virtual Teamwork provides hundreds of ready-to-use phrases that will ensure your virtual teams collaborate as effectively as the most cohesive face-to-face team.



With more and more employees working offsite, effective communication among remote team members is absolutely critical. Perfect Phrases for Virtual Teamwork provides hundreds of ready-to-use phrases that will ensure your virtual teams collaborate as effectively as the most cohesive face-to-face team. Learn the most effective language for:

  • Defining and aligning team culture
  • Personalizing interactions
  • Assessing progress and results
  • Leading effective virtual meetings
  • Addressing conflicts and mistakes

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
Perfect Phrases Series
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Fostering Collaboration at a Distance

By Meryl Runion, Lynda McDermott

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2012Meryl Runion
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-178384-2



Champion Virtual Team Potential

The first challenge of creating powerful virtual teams is to quickly get people to "get" this fact:

There is a social revolution and a business revolution going on, and virtual teams are on the cutting edge.

The way we did business before is over. Does your CEO understand that? Do your stakeholders understand that? Does the Board understand that? Does everyone who is or will become involved with the team understand we need to transform? That's the message of virtual teamwork. That's what is so important for everyone to realize before a virtual team or alliance even starts to take form. The social revolution is not just about consumers and entertainment. It's about enterprise. The virtual revolution is not just about relating as we once did through new media. It's about relating in all new ways. Virtual teams aren't just about being able to work across boundaries with new islands of cooperation. Virtual teams are about vast integrated webs of influence, generating and sharing ideas, collaborating instantly, having complete mobility, and forming dynamic partnerships as never before. It's not a minor change. It's a paradigm shift. And every time there's a new paradigm, it's time to reconfigure and reboot. Cut and start over. Embrace the whole dynamic new way of thinking about how virtual teams and alliances work and share the exciting news. The entire world (almost) has gone social—and mobile and virtual.

Perfect Phrases to Create a Dynamic Vision of Virtual Teams

As you can tell from the previous paragraph, there's a lot to be excited about with virtual teams. A clear vision motivates action. Use the following phrases to help you paint a picture of virtual teamwork possibilities that is so compelling that people won't just dabble. They'll be dazzled and dive in deep.

* Subject line: The Vision of Virtual Teams for (Organization Name, Project Idea, Etc.)

* Most of us don't have a comprehensive idea of the dynamic power of virtual teams today. That's why I created a short (time, example: five-minute) presentation on how virtual teams can dynamize our (company, team, project, etc.). It's a (SlideShare/YouTube video, etc.). Please click here (and enter this password:_______________), enjoy, and post comments below. I invite you to pass it on.

• Virtual teams and virtual team technologies have evolved so much that instead of causing barriers, distance managing actually leads to more collaboration and team-work than most collocated teams experience. It's like having all those experts in the same room.

• You wouldn't believe what people are doing on virtual teams these days! They share best practices at lightning speed and support each other on the ground where they are. They give people information they need when questions come up during client meetings or right as they reach impasses in their work. They have instant meetings and troubleshoot when problems arise, and they catch errors early on. They collaborate in small and targeted chunks just when input matters. They're really up to speed with business trends today.

• Virtual teams are about connection. They're cross functional, and that breaks down the hierarchy and distance silos. It's just not true anymore that people collaborate more in collocated teams. The fact is that if people are more than 50 feet away from each other in the same location, they don't collaborate much. Virtual teams have the team on their desktops, mobile apps, and phones. They carry the team around with them, and that's a lot closer than 50 feet.

• My experience with virtual teams is that we bounce ideas off each other a lot. There's a dynamic immediacy—a back-and-forth. That means projects move forward at a faster clip. Input happens at earlier stages, so we make changes and adapt sooner—which is extremely efficient when we need quick answers.

• One great thing about virtual teams is the capacity to update team members on the activities of the team as a whole without needing to be physically present. Members can address the group for input and ideas more readily.

• There's more flexibility in virtual teams. Because travel time means turning on your laptop or iPad and logging on wherever you are, it's easier for people to fit virtual meetings into their calendar. That means they can be available more readily.

• I've had fabulous experiences with virtual teams. For example, (give a brief example). We never could have accomplished (achievement) like that if we had limited ourselves to a headquarter location.

• If we go virtual in forming this team, we can create satellite teams in locations close to the customers. That will save costs and ensure our teams are aligned with the local culture.

• Companies that approach working virtually as a progressive and competitive strategy are more likely to survive and thrive in the coming decades. I want that to be us.

• Virtual teams provide us with options. We won't be limited by physical location from getting the right people on the team. That means people can be a part of projects they couldn't before. We won't need to compromise on our best talent.

• Virtual teams tend to get right to business when they meet virtually in ways they don't when face-to-face. I often find we get the same amount done in half the time.


Evangelize Business Social and Collaborative Technology

Perfect Phrases to Introduce Collaborative Potential

If you want to paint a compelling picture of virtual team potential, you have to talk about collaborative software and teamwork tools. It's the tools that make this revolution possible. Some of the most effective and dynamic software and apps that increase efficiency and create a competitive edge are only a few years or even months old. To know what people are doing with social and collaborative technologies is to understand what virtual teams are capable of today. The people who are ahead of this curve can light the way by sharing how people can connect in new ways.

* Notice to (employees, associates, stakeholders, etc.): It's your conversation and your career.

* People are talking like never before. It's not just the social butterflies or the technophiles that are having the lights go on. Social networks, business chat feeds, and collaborative sharing tools open doors for us as an organization and for you in the job you do every day. Just in case you thought the tools don't matter, click here to see that yes, they really do. Watch the three-minute video and join the discussion we have started about how our thriving community of networked professionals is solving problems and creating new opportunities each day.

* Notice to (employees, associates, stakeholders):

* Here are a few of the ways people are using our online network to increase their productivity. They're following our top deals, collaborating online privately and securely, reducing e-mail traffic by posting to groups and discussions, uploading files to our knowledge library, and discovering experts who help them solve problems and close deals more quickly. We want you to join the conversation.

* How are you using our online network? Post to this discussion and share your wins and best practices.

• Virtual team tools are what make virtual teaming so dynamic. Well, actually it's the use of the tools, not the tools themselves.

• Collaborative software can more than make up for the lack of proximity. Once you've experienced the dynamic flow of instant access and easy idea sharing, anything else can seem static by comparison.

• People aren't just moving to (new technology, example: the cloud) because it's the latest and the greatest. They're doing it because it works and they're getting results. It enhances productivity exponentially.

• Here are some stats for you from Salesforce.com. Teams that use their networks effectively have 27 percent fewer meetings and a 30 percent reduction in e-mail. They have a 39 percent increase in collaboration and find information 52 percent faster than those who don't.


Clarify the Business Need for a Virtual Team

Wow. We just told you how great virtual teams are, and now we suggest you might not need a virtual team at all. What's up with that? Well, not every situation calls for a team, and sometimes you can get what you need with a collocated team, an existing team, or working through standard processes. Too often, leaders and managers will try to force the need to fit a tool or approach rather than the other way around. These phrases will help you make sure you and your associates form a virtual team for the right reasons, if at all.

Tip and Warning! Employ Every Team Formation Step

Every step is for you and your team in one form or another. Small, casual virtual teams and virtual alliances don't need the formal structures that are mandatory for larger, formal ones. Teams who work on predictable projects don't require as much team preparation and coordination as creative ones. That doesn't mean small or defined teams can skip the setup steps entirely. The temptation for a team of any size—from 2 to 200 members—can be to jump right into action without any preliminaries. Can it work? Sure. You might find you went in sharing the same assumptions. However, when it doesn't work, you'll long for an early retirement when, instead, you could make things happen virtually. Skipping the preliminaries is a recipe for confusion, misunderstandings, and failure. All teams need at least an informal version of each step.

Perfect Phrases to Clarify the Project Business Need

The beginning is the perfect time to clarify the business need that might lead to forming a virtual team. Clear purpose gives stakeholders the understanding they need to decide how to meet the need, and then if they elect to form a virtual team, it gives that team the information they need to create their charter, or team map. (Some teams use the term charter to mean purpose or mission. We use charter to refer to all aspects of defining and mapping a team, such as goals and norms, etc.) If you can't answer the questions in this section, you're not ready to form a team or take a next step.

* Notice to (stakeholders). We (created a new group and) opened a discussion about (the intranet, company business network, etc.) to clarify the business need of (challenge). The results of this discussion will guide our decisions about forming a team to address our challenges.

* Based on the comments in our business need discussion, we formulated the following business need statement.

* Please post comments and concerns before we finalize it and move on to discussing goals.

• What performance or business challenge do we need to meet?

• How can we state that more precisely and concisely?

• What's broken that we need to fix?

• How can we flip that statement into a positive?

• What is the primary client or customer need?

• What's the true north of this project? The guiding compass?

• Let's summarize what we have as clearly and succinctly as possible.

• Do those words light a fire in everyone's belly? Or do we need to keep talking?

• Is this description good enough for prime time? If, for example, you needed to create a compelling team charter based on this, plus explain to your boss that this is a priority, would this give you what you need?

• How does the purpose align with and support the organizational mission?

• Is that as clear as we can make it? Would that purpose set a team up for success with a clear mandate from the outset?

• Let's fill in the blank. We need to ____________ because_____________.

• Can we present an elevator pitch now? Would the pitch be compelling and effective in recruiting members?

• If the project had a bumper sticker, what would it say?

• Have you thought about why you (we) really need this team?

• Have you identified and talked to the key stakeholders who have a vested interest in the results? What do they say they want?

• Why would the key stakeholders want and support this team?

• What's the point? We're not talking objectives here—this is the big picture of what the team is about. Why do we need to accomplish our mission? Not want, but need.

Perfect Phrases to Determine If a Virtual Team Is the Best Way to Go

These phrases and questions challenge the assumption that you need a team at all, and they reveal what options best serve the purpose. If you do form a virtual team, do it for the right reasons.

* Notice to stakeholders: You'll find a survey on our shared workspace eliciting input regarding the best structure to address the (business mission from previous step). Please complete it within (time frame).

* Based on the discussion/survey results, we've decided to form a virtual team to accomplish (purpose). Please watch for further communication for goal input.

• We have our purpose. Let's list all possible options for accomplishing this purpose.

• Is there another way to meet that purpose that might be more efficient and effective than forming a team?

• Can we get the expertise we need in one location, or do we need multiple locations?

• Why do we need to create a team to accomplish this? Why is a team the best approach? Let's not just say "form a team" and declare our work accomplished.

• Why a virtual team? What in particular about this purpose suggests a virtual team is the best way to achieve it?

• What could a collocated team do that we couldn't easily replicate in a virtual team?

• Is that essential? Do the benefits of a virtual team out-weigh the limits?

• What aspects of virtual teamwork do we want to be sure to take advantage of in this process?

• Are we willing to invest in the applications and training to be able to leverage those advantages?

• Fill this in. We're addressing the business challenge of (purpose statement) by forming a team because (reason). We are forming a virtual team instead of a collocated team because (reason).

• Why this team?

• Let's clearly state why this virtual team is important to the organization.


Create Preliminary Goals

It's too early for defined goals, but right after you clarify team purpose is the perfect time to identify generally what you want this team to do. A word of caution: avoid locking the team into rigid subgoals that might not be the strongest or most useful for the on-the-ground reality. It's best if the virtual team sets its own team goals.

While a clearly stated mission (such as putting a man on the moon and bringing him home) provides important direction, at this stage, preliminary goals and subgoals are best as guidelines or a draft.

Perfect Phrases to Ask Stakeholders to Identify Preliminary Team Goals

Preliminary goals provide a launching point for the people who are actually tasked with the outcome to clearly state the goals in ways that create goal identity. You'll find more on goals in the launch section. Use the words "draft" and "preliminary goals" to keep early goals nonbinding.

* Notice to stakeholders: We started a discussion in our group to identify team goals. Goals are endpoints and indicate what we want the team to deliver. Please join the discussion and share your needs and requirements. The discussion asks, when all is said and done, how would you decide the team was successful?

* Based on the discussion, we formulated recommended preliminary goals. Please complete the survey at (location).

* Based on the survey, we have set the following preliminary goals.

• Now that we know why we're forming the team, let's get clearer about what we expect it to deliver. Let's fill in the blank. We expect this team to deliver ...

• Just what is the team supposed to accomplish?

• Let's keep the terms broad here to give the team room to set their own goals and objectives.

• Our role is to give the team enough information about the purpose and team deliverables for them to be able to create a compelling charter with goals and subgoals they can translate into objectives.

• Do we need to rough out some of the subgoals and timelines, or will the team be better able to do that?

• I get why we're doing it. Help me paint a picture of exactly what the deliverables will be.

• Okay, I know it's impossible to know exactly what the end product will be until we get into it, but let's pretend we can. What does it look like? How will we know we've made it?

• Why do we need just that?

• Does that definition allow enough room for the team to put their name on it?

• Let's each describe the preliminary goals to the best of our understanding to make sure we're on the same page.

• Is that the best way to state the preliminary goal? Let's play devil's advocate. Imagine it's (end time). Imagine we've gotten what we asked for, but it's not what we thought we were asking for. You know the saying: "Be careful what you ask for, you might get it." So if the team achieved the goal as stated, would you be satisfied? Why?

• Let's each describe a possible scenario where a team delivers according to the goals set here but it doesn't match our expectations.

• How could we keep that from happening?

• We're asking our team to strive to new levels to achieve these goals. The goals need to be worth the sacrifice. That means attainable and yet a stretch. Are we there?

• Are these goals worth getting home late for dinner?

Perfect Phrases to Quantify Stakeholder Expectations

How are you going to track all that? Have each stakeholder put his or her desires into measurable outcomes.

• Let's talk metrics. What are you looking for? What is the dashboard that you'll go to every day to know how the team is doing?

• We want our dashboard to match what you look at. Our metrics need to be visible so people can know what is being measured and monitored, and team results meet your expectations.

• A year from now, what would it take for you to recommend that this team continue working together?

• What do you want or need from this team that you haven't been able to get in another way?

• What added value do you expect to see from this team and its work?


Excerpted from PERFECT PHRASES for VIRTUAL TEAMWORK by Meryl Runion. Copyright © 2012 by Meryl Runion. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Meryl Runion, CSP, is a certified speaking professional and the author of several Perfect Phrases books. The founder of SpeakStrong, Inc., she lives in Cascade, CO.
Lynda McDermott is founder and President of EquiPro International. She has launched and developed more than 1,000 cross-functional virtual teams around the globe.

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