Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

Today is March 15th, which turns out to be the "ides" of March on the Julian calendar.  Now I'm no study of Shakespearian plays, but I know a few quotes, and "Beware the ides of March" from Julius Caesar is one of them.  The significance of this day for Caesar is that he will be assassinated by a group of conspirators.  And despite numerous warnings and signs, Caesar, a very superstitious man, still ventures forth on the ides to meet his doom.  

One of the themes of the play is that the characters confuse their private selves with their public selves.  Caesar loses his ability to distinguish between his omnipotent, immortal public image and his private, vulnerable self.  His ambition leads him right into the deathtrap.   

It seems not a day goes by that we don't hear about some celebrity, politician, or corporate leader apologizing, defending, or resigning as a result of a scandal.  They had a lapse of judgement about their omnipotence and are now paying the price.  Did they also receive warnings along the way that they refused to heed?  Did they believe that their public image was untouchable, that no one would dare betray them, or that they were beyond reproach? 

Integrity is a measure of how well your actions align with your core values and represent your purpose.  Another way to define it is when your public self and your private self are in alignment.  And since each person defines their own integrity, it takes vigilance to develop your alignment between your calling and your conduct.      

"Beware the ides of March" could be a reminder to all of us to heed the warnings when our integrity is in jeopardy.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Virtual Teams & Technology, A Fairy Tale

Gather round everyone, and I'll tell you a fairy tale about how technology enabled virtual teams to live happily ever after...

"Once upon a time, there were teams of hard working employees, each reporting in to a noble leader right there in their own offices. Times were peaceful, clients were happy, and bonuses were paid out every year. Then one day, the benevolent Queen Economy fell victim to a terrible illness. In order to survive, the businesses were forced to consolidate, and the employees now reported to noble leaders in offices remote from their own. With little money to travel, how would they communicate, hold meetings, work together as a team? Fortunately, the businesses were blessed with technically savvy professionals who set them up with sophisticated web conferencing capabilities, highspeed data transfer lines, global phone systems, and video teleconferencing equipment. Soon, order was restored across the land and times were again peaceful for the new virtual teams. In fact, things went so smoothly, Queen Economy was able to stay focused on her health and made a full recovery. And they all lived happily ever after."

Wouldn't it be great if it were true? That all we need is the right technology to connect us and then everything just falls into place? But alas, the truth is that technology is just one piece of the puzzle.

In fact, after attending a webinar last week, I learned that most experts on virtual teams consider technology to be a much smaller part of the success story. An important part, but only ~10% of the total equation. So what's the other 90%? According to authors Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, "Virtual Teams - People Working Across Boundaries With Technology", 90% of the success comes from the people component.

This made me smile a big smile. Why? Because I worked for many years leading virtual teams, and that had been my exact experience. And if you're leading virtual teams right now, it should make you smile, too. It means you're an important part of the success equation, and any opportunity for you to step up as a leader and show your stuff is good news.

So yes, make sure your teams have the technology they need to work and to connect, but, don't be lured in by the fairy tale that technology it's the end all solution. Your virtual teams need you and your ability to create an environment that unites them while still recognizing their unique cultural differences, skillsets, and histories.

And while we focus on our virtual teams this week, let's also take a moment to send a Get Well card to Queen Economy. I think she could use it.