Episode 64 – Virtual Teams: Are You in a Long Distance Relationship?

Episode #64
Original Air Date: 08.31.2018

35 MINUTES

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Our Guest This Episode: Wayne Turmel

Working with remote teams requires you to lead differently, according to our Velociteach guest, Wayne Turmel. In the latest Manage This podcast, Wayne identifies the challenges of leading remote teams and suggests methods to overcome these difficulties. Wayne and Kevin Eikenberry wrote the book: The Long Distance Leader, Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin co-founded the Remote Leadership Institute to help remote leaders succeed in a virtual workplace.

If you manage remote resources or lead a hybrid team, you’ll find this conversation very helpful. Wayne offers practical advice and useful insight. Listen in for some tips ranging from how to coach and nurture long distance working relationships, to how to select technology that provides the best communication experience. Wayne talks about the difference between richness and scope in communication and offers suggestions as to why some organizations struggle with working remotely.

See transcript for table of contents.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“We’re now forced to communicate through technology, which fundamentally changes the way people interact. It changes the human dynamic.”

- Wayne Turmel

“We got the data we asked for, but may not get all the information we need.”

- Wayne Turmel

“Genghis Khan ruled half the world and never held a WebEx meeting.”

- Wayne Turmel

“When we work remotely, there’s a tendency to try to limit the communication to the purely transactional. And so we don’t get to know people the way that we know them.”

- Wayne Turmel

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Table of Contents

  1. Wayne Intro………………………………………………..…..…..00:39
  2. The Challenges of Remote Leadership……………….……01:38
  3. The Human Dynamic………………………………….……..….03:26
  4. Leading Remotely is Leading differently…………..…..…05:02
  5. Advantages of Remote Teams……………..….….………..…08:02
  6. Organizations Struggling with Remote Teams? ……….10:37
  7. Tools: Richness vs. Scope of Media…………………..…..…12:59
  8. 3 Dimensional vs 2 Dimensional Communication……..22:41
  9. Use Technology to Build Relationships………..…….……25:21
  10. Where to find Wayne………………………………………..……31:08

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is our chance to sit down and talk about what matters to you as a professional project manager.  We get inside the heads of people who are doing the job and doing it well.  We talk with them about leadership, we talk about methods, and we talk about what works and what doesn’t work, all with the purpose of learning and improving our game.

I’m your host, Nick Walker.  And with me are the two guys who never stop learning, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And Andy, I’m anxious to hear what we can learn from our guest today.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I definitely think there are things we can learn today.  We’re going to be diving into remote leadership, long-distance leadership, remote teams, that kind of thing.  And it’s going to be very informative.  I can feel it.

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s meet our guest.  Wayne Turmel is the cofounder of the Remote Leadership Institute and the author of many books, including Association for Talent Development’s “10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations.”  He also coauthored a book with Kevin Eikenberry, “The Long-Distance Leader:  Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.”  Wayne and Kevin cofounded the Remote Leadership Institute to help remote leaders succeed in a virtual workplace.  And Wayne, I think it’s appropriate that we are speaking to you remotely today from Chicago.  Thank you so much for being here with us on Manage This.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I’m delighted to be here, guys.  This is going to be fun.

NICK WALKER:  Now, you state in your book that today, according to the Project Management Institute, 90 percent of project teams have at least one member, usually more, who aren’t colocated with the rest of the team.  Remote leading, that’s got to be a challenge.  What are some of the challenges of it?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Sure.  Well, you know, you’re more likely to find pandas mating in the wild than a project manager that has all their people in one place anymore.  So it’s absolutely – this is now a fundamental skill, right, that we need to get our mitts around.  On one level, not much has changed.  I mean, if you look at the job of the PM, what’s the job; right?  We need to help figure out scope.  We need to assign resources.  We need to coach periodically.  All the stuff that we need to do.  Nothing’s changed.  I mean, Peter Drucker said the greatest project job of all time was building the pyramids, and we’ve just been trying to live up to that ever since.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  The difference, of course, is the guy who built the pyramids was at the pyramids.  He wasn’t trying to flog people by email.  So if we think about what we have to do, in many ways it’s not that different.  What has changed radically is how we do it.  We’re now forced to communicate through technology, which fundamentally changes the way people interact.  It changes the human dynamic.  And I know a lot of PMs get real nervous when we talk about human dynamic, right, because it’s all about process.  But the fact of the matter is that communicating through technology is radically different than the way we were born and raised to communicate.  And some people adapt naturally, and others need to be very mindful of how we do that.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, Wayne, it’s interesting because I think for a long time, and sort of at the birth of project management, people were really uncomfortable with the human dynamic.  I think now there’s sort of a realization all throughout the profession that process will only get you so far.  That it’s necessary; you don’t want to just get a team together with no process because that’s chaos.  But process will only carry you so far, and then it becomes – the human dynamic becomes all important.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah.  There’s something that I don’t hear anymore at PMI meetings, you know, when I’m speaking to chapters and stuff like that.  There’s something I don’t hear anymore that used to be just fingernails on a blackboard.  People go, yeah, this communications stuff is great; but, you know, I’m not a people manager.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  And, you know, there’s a part of me that just wants to climb out of my skin when people say that because I know what they mean is I don’t have direct line-of-sight responsibility.  I may not be – you know.  The problem for project managers, one of the big ones, especially remotely, is that they may not be that person’s real boss.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a matrix.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I’ve got a real boss somewhere that I’m responsible for.  And, oh, by the way, you’re trying to get me to do my job.  But there are divided loyalties.  There are resources, allotment problems.  You know.  So I understand why they say I’m not a people manager, I’m a project manager.  But fortunately I’m hearing less and less of that these days.

BILL YATES:  Right.  Yeah, that is a good thing, for sure.  Wayne, this is Bill.  And one of the things that I want to dive into, I really appreciated the content in your book.  And we’ll give you 90 percent credit and say Kevin did 10 percent of it since he’s not here.  But the book…

WAYNE TURMEL:  Blessings upon you, yes.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  “The Long-Distance Leader,” you guys have 19 rules that you tease out throughout the book.  Right off the bat, rule number two says accept the fact that leading remotely requires you to lead differently.  And I think that’s a fundamental – I appreciate you guys addressing that right upfront, that leadership, there are basics to leadership.  But when you are leading remote team members, it’s different.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Well, it is.  And the differences are many.  One is that there’s a whole lot more communication done in writing than there has ever been in the history of the world.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?  Twenty-five years ago, the majority of communication was verbal.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  You were in a meeting.  You were on the phone.  Whatever.  Now the balance has gone way over, and communicating in writing is a different skill.  It’s a different skill set.  We need to listen differently, if you will.  And so that’s just one example of how it’s different.  The other thing is that, when we were all together, if I was an introvert, maybe if I was conflict avoidant, I didn’t really have a choice.  At some point I had to deal with you.  Now it’s way too easy to send that email or to put off a difficult conversation because the person isn’t standing right there.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Wayne, I started my career in the ‘80s, and I started as a co-op with IBM.  And we had a system called PROFS.  And PROFS was email before there was any real email in use anywhere.  And so, you know, I kind of grew up from the very beginning having access to electronic mail.  But my son asked me probably three or four years ago, when he was around 21, he looked at me one day, and we were working together on a project.  And he said, “Dad, what did people do before there was email?”  And I laughed.  I said, “We worked, that’s what.”

WAYNE TURMEL:  Here’s what people need to know.  And I tell my daughter this all the time.  Genghis Khan ruled half the world and never held a WebEx meeting.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  It can be done.  Now, if he’d had WebEx, you can bet he’d have used it.  But the point is that it’s all about that mindset.  And if you think about what should be happening first, then you can look at the technology and say, okay, how do we use this to accomplish what we need to accomplish?

ANDY CROWE:  Surely Alexander the Great had some collaboration tools we’re just not fully aware of.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Hey, well, yeah, he actually sent people running from one place to another.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s right.  So I’ve got a question for you.  And this is sort of just a level-setting question.  I’ll be honest with you.  I think of remote teams as a sacrifice.  In my own mind, having to work with a remote team is something I have to do.  It’s not ever something I think that I would choose to do.  Am I off base on that?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Maybe not.  And here’s why I say that.  The advantage of remote teams is that you are not bound by the geography.  On the other hand, you don’t get the advantages of the geography.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?  So there are times when nothing is going to beat having everybody in the same room throwing code and yelling at each other and running to the whiteboard and doing all that good stuff and seeing somebody in the parking lot and going, “Oh, and another thing.”

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  You’re not always going to get that.  On the other hand, there are times when being left alone to get the work done is a beautiful thing.  There are times when what you want is the best person for the job.  And the best person for that job may not live within a drive of your office.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and that was not to say that there are no advantages to remote teams because obviously they’re a reality for a reason.  They are so popular now, as you said, more popular than pandas mating in the wild.  No, other way around.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I don’t know that they’re more popular.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

WAYNE TURMEL:  The frequency is about the same.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  But they’re very frequent.  We use a lot of remote teams for a reason.  There are advantages.  So my point was not that there’s no real reason to do it.  It’s just that, if I could wave a magic wand and get everybody together in a room, most times I would do that.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I think that the problem is, when we think about remote teams, we decide it’s either/or.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?  Either we have a remote team, or everybody works together.  And, you know, there are a lot of people who work remotely, and it’s some bean counter’s decision.  I mean, they went, “We just spent $50,000 on WebEx licenses.  We never have to buy a plane ticket again.”

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

WAYNE TURMEL:  And the answer is no.  There are times when you want everybody together.  Not all teams are virtual all the time.  I mean, plenty of us use hybrid teams where folks supposedly work together, but they’re working from home two days a week.  Or something like that.  So, you know, we need to go back to first principles, which is what’s the job that needs to be done, and what’s the best way to do it.

BILL YATES:  Wayne, quick question on that.  Some organizations have – they have pivoted completely to, okay, no more remote working.  We’re going to bring everything back in-house.  We want everybody back face to face.  You know, some examples, IBM, Yahoo!, you guys bring that up in the book.  Why do organizations struggle?  What have you guys seen that led them to make that decision?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah.  I know that none of us have ever worked for organizations that made a decision, made a big splash about it, and then decided it didn’t work.  I know that that’s very rare.

BILL YATES:  It’s only in the movies.

WAYNE TURMEL:  What happened in both those cases is that nobody planned for the work to be virtual.  It just kind of worked that way.  People started working from home, and they liked working from home.  And soon they were working from home more than they were working here.  And then it became a perk.  Hey, we’ll let you work from home.  Or so-and-so’s husband got transferred, and so we still want them on the team, so now she’s going to live in Denver.  There wasn’t really a plan around it.  And so the teams kind of scrambled to make it work, and then they found what was really common.  This is the single most common challenge when teams are deciding do we work together or not.  What kind of work do they do?  Harvard Business Review showed that people who work from home get more done.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  If you look at task completion, if you look at checking stuff off your list, they get stuff done.  One of the reasons is they’re not interrupted, they’re allowed to focus, all that good stuff.  But the downside of that is they become very focused on their task, their work, what’s in their span of control.  And work that requires input and output from others, brainstorming, collaboration, those types of things tend to suffer.  They don’t have to, but they tend to unless you actually get active about doing something about that.  And, you know, if you’ve ever been on that conference call where it’s like pulling teeth to get a contribution from people who can’t shut up when they’re in the room together, you’ve experienced some of that.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  That’s true.  Wayne, again, I talked about how powerful the book was.  There’s, I mean, you guys have some great stuff.

NICK WALKER:  And you can continue to do that, by the way.  By all means.

BILL YATES:  That’s okay with you.  “The Long-Distance Leader,” you guys start out with really building, okay, foundationally, this is what you need to do as a leader.  Now, let’s pivot and talk about as a remote leader, what are some of the unique challenges you have, what are the tools that are available to you, and what do you need to keep in mind?  One of the things that I found fascinating was the chart in, I think it was in Chapter 12, and you guys there, there are two axes.  There are two different data points you’re looking at, richness of media and scope of media.  So you have scope of media on an X axis, and then richness of media on a Y axis.  I think I know where you’re going there.  But just walk us through that.  Just kind of – and use your hands so we can visually see what you’re saying.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Sure.  Here’s what happens.  We have to get the job done with the tools available to us.  Very few teams actually don’t have enough tools to get the job done anymore.  The challenge is that we don’t always leverage technology the right way, and there are two reasons we don’t do that.  Number one is we have preferences, and we don’t always use the right tool for the right job.

The second challenge is that, even if we have the tools, as anybody who builds software knows, 80 percent of people use 20 percent of the features.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  So let me give you a really simple example.  Richness is you and I having a cup of coffee.  We’re sitting there.  We’re eyeball to eyeball.  I say something.  I can see the horrified look on your face or the body language or whatever it is.  Questions don’t fester; right?  You can ask the question right away.  Conversation flows easily.  We’re getting the verbal, the non-verbal, all that good stuff.  That is great.  It’s not always practical.  You can’t always have one-on-one conversations with everybody; right?

Email is an example of scope.  A hundred people can get the same message at the same time.  But it’s not terribly rich; right?  All you get is the data that is transferred in that email.  We don’t know if they interpreted it correctly.  Half the time we don’t even know if they read it.  We may not realize that they misunderstood until it was way down the road, or the gossip starts, or people freak out and you realize, oh, I didn’t say that the way I wanted to.  But everything else falls on that axis.

So let’s take a tool like – I use WebEx generically like people use Kleenex.  But Skype for Business or any of these types of tools.  People say, “Oh, you know, we don’t use it.”  Well, why not?  It’s got a webcam.  It’s got a whiteboard.  It’s got screen sharing.  It’s got annotation tools that you can – “Oh, we don’t use any of that stuff.”  Well, okay.  You know, and they say, “Well, our meetings aren’t as effective as in person.”  All right.  What would you do in person?  “Well, I’d ask for a show of hands.”  You know there’s a button right there that says “Raise Hand.”  Right?  “Well, I like to use a flipchart, or I like to go to the whiteboard.”  There’s a whiteboard.

You know, if you look at the tools, if you look at the spectrum of tools on that richness versus scope matrix, there’s probably a way to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish.  But in order to do that you’ve got to choose the right tool, and you have to use it well.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, though, Wayne?  As you’re explaining this, something’s going through my mind.  And if I’m having to show somebody repeatedly or convince them, hey, you can get a vote for a show of hands; hey, you can use a blackboard over here?  Okay, the first time I’ll give you that.  But if you’re having to repeatedly go over it, there’s a saying that a good user interface is like a good joke.  The good ones you don’t have to explain.  And so in that case that’s what makes some of these devices and tools so beautiful is that you hand it to a two year old, and they understand it.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Whereas if you hand something to a 40-year-old manager, and they’re still not – are reluctant to use it, there’s still some friction in the system.  And, you know, it’s one of those things that, yeah, if you show them one time, and then they go, oh, my gosh, this changed my life, that’s a good thing.  But otherwise I don’t know.  I think they can be improved.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Okay.  Oh, they can totally be improved, which is why there are 120 web meeting platforms out there.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Because nobody has created the perfect mousetrap.  Here’s my kind of response to that is, A, you’re right; right?  But also people have different styles, and people do things in different ways.  And as a project team it’s really important that you make decisions as a team about what tools are we going to use, when are we going to use them, what’s the etiquette, what’s the process.  Because if you leave it up to people individually, and this happens a lot on project teams, you’ve got that guy who communicates only through email; right?  And he won’t pick up the phone, and he won’t use his webcam, and he won’t speak up on meetings.  But he’ll send you 20 emails a day.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

WAYNE TURMEL:  And sometimes that’s the right answer.  Email is a great tool.  It allows for archiving.  It allows for quick communication to multiple people.  That’s beautiful.  It also, by the time you reach the 20th email of the thread, at some point somebody needs to say, “Let’s pick up the phone.”

BILL YATES:  Right, right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Webcams are an example of a tool that, objectively, does it help when you can see the other person, read their body language, see their facial expression, put a face to a name, and everybody says yes.  And then you say, “Okay, great, let’s use our webcams.”  And they go, “Oh, no.”  Sometimes the team needs to decide as a team, like it or not, this is how we’re working because this is how we’re going to get the work done.  And it’s not always going to fit everybody’s individual preference.

BILL YATES:  That’s a great point.  Wayne. one of the things – again, I’m preaching back to your own book.  Rule 9 is right in line with that.  In Rule 9 you say:  “Communicate in the ways that work best for others, rather than based on your personal preferences.”  As a leader of a team, I may have tools that I’m really comfortable with.  And I may be forcing those on other team members.  And that’s not effective.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah, absolutely.  And it’s funny because a lot of that stems from the desire to do the right thing, which is do unto others the way we want done unto us.  The problem is, when it comes to communication, is people work in different ways.  We have different work styles.  We have different methods.  There are introverts and extroverts.  I’m an auditory learner.  I like to talk stuff out.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?  A lot of times I don’t even know what I’m saying, what I’m thinking until it comes out of my mouth.  And then I go, yeah, I like that; or that was stupid.  But I need to bounce things off other human beings.  I don’t necessarily need to be in the room with them.  But I need to be at least voice-to-voice or webcam-to-webcam to talk stuff out.  That’s how you’re going to get the best work from me.  If you leave me alone, never talk to me except the once-a-week status update and, oh, by the way, everything’s coming at me in email, you’re probably not going to get the best out of me.  I can do it.  I can adhere to those rules if I really have to.  But it’s not the way to work best with Wayne.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m also an auditory learner, Wayne.  And there aren’t as many of us out there as I would think.  A lot of people go back and default to visual or kinesthetic or other learning styles.  I’m an auditory.  And I remember what I hear really well.  And so it helps me to process.  I love conversations.  What I find, though, that’s the best way of solving a problem for me is a face-to-face conversation.

What I find is email does have a good place.  As you said, there’s an audit trail there.  There’s something to go back on.  I got called in this week to sort of weigh in on an email war that was going on between two people.  And I had to go back and literally start at the bottom and read through 20 different posts, all the way up.  And at the end, I said, “You know what?  We’re not going to respond to this in another email because that’s not going to solve this problem.”

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  What we’re going to do is sit down, all of us, face to face, and figure this out because it’s no longer about who’s right and who’s wrong.  There’s probably one party that was more right than another.  But that’s not even the point.  And that’s not leadership.  It’s not about being right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Well, what you just did there is what needs to happen on a team.  Now, a good project team, that wouldn’t have escalated to the point where they had to bring dad in to break the kids up.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Right?  A good project team, a member of the team should be empowered to say “This ain’t working.  We need to do something else.”  Or “We need to take this into a slack channel where we’re not driving everybody else crazy.”  You know what I mean?  That’s, again, it gets back to richness versus scope.  This is great, the scope, everybody’s contributing and all that good stuff.  But the richness is required to resolve the problem, and we ain’t getting it.  So let’s do something about that.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.  Wayne, I heard a speaker just recently, Juliet Funt.  She described this as three-dimensional versus two-dimensional communication.  And when I was thinking through her comments and looking at this graph of scope of media versus richness of media, it lines right up with it.  So the coffee chat, you know, let’s talk over coffee where I can see your face and see your reaction and pick up on your tone, that would be a three-dimensional, you know, example of three-dimensional communication.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Sure.

BILL YATES:  Two-dimensional is that slack or that instant message, that email.  Maybe I’m texting you.  So there you don’t get my tone.  You don’t know if I’m kidding around or if I’m really upset about something.  And so her point was many mistakes that she sees in communication – she’s the CEO of an organization called WhiteSpace at Work.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Sure.

BILL YATES:  And she said in her organization, the companies that they work with, they see many communication mistakes where someone’s – they’re using a two-dimensional method for a three-dimensional problem.  And so when I look at your graph, how do you coach team members to know what’s the appropriate method to use when?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Well, it really starts with what is the communication supposed to impart.  If it’s purely data transfer, right – there’s doughnuts in the break room, the meeting is at 2:00 o’clock Tuesday – that’s information.  There isn’t a lot of stuff that has to go with that.  You can use something that’s high scope.  The message is out there.  It’s done.  If you are trying to persuade somebody, if you need to get answers to a question, if you need to test people’s attitude and buy-in, that purely data transfer form of communication isn’t going to get the job done; right?

So it’s really important that you stop and think about what is the purpose of the communication here?  You know, am I giving them brand new information?  And they’re probably going to have some reaction to that – it’s good news, it’s bad news, whatever.  Maybe the email isn’t the best way to do that.  Maybe I’ll hold that until we’re on the conference call or we’re on the web meeting, and we can get a reaction at that time, and I can see who really hates this and who gets it and who’s confused.  It’s really what’s the purpose of the communication, and then what’s the best way to communicate that that we can achieve given the circumstances that we’re in.

ANDY CROWE:  Wayne, I want to tell you a very short story and then relate it back to something in your book, or maybe get you to expound on it.  Years ago I was going to a business meeting with a guy that I really respected quite a lot.  And we met at a restaurant.  And there were three of us.  The guy that I was primarily meeting with looked around and said, “Hey, can we just pretend we’re not Westerners for a few minutes and just talk to each other, just get to know each other?”  We probably spent an hour getting to know each other.  It was one of the most delightful business meetings.  And then, you know, it paved the way for us getting other things done.  But at this point we really started to understand each other’s motivations, family lives, what we were about, what drove us, how our work styles differed from each other.  It was fascinating.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yup.

ANDY CROWE:  And I’ve stolen that trick a time or two before.  Now, in your book you have – in Chapter 11 you say – one of your bullet points is to use technology to build relationships.  So beyond kind of swiping right on somebody, how do we use technology to build relationships?  Any thoughts on that?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah.  It actually starts with the idea that, hey, I want to build a relationship.  I mean, it’s very much what that person did, which is, hey, I’m going to consciously have this discussion.  And we know that once we get to know each other a little bit, the next five times we talk stuff’s going to go way faster and smoother, right, because we made the investment upfront.  One of the challenges, particularly on project teams and when we work remotely, there is a tendency for communication to become very transactional.

BILL YATES:  Right.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I don’t want to bother you.  I don’t want to interrupt.  Let’s not waste time.  Let’s get right down to it.  And you don’t take the time that you do in a regular – if we’re meeting in the conference room, as people come in, “Hey, Nick, how you doing, you know, did you see the game last night?  How are the kids?”  Right?  “Oh, I meant to ask you about….”  All those conversations have – you tease each other.  You make jokes.  You spill salad dressing on your shirt, and everybody laughs at you.

When we work remotely, there’s a tendency to try to limit the communication to the purely transactional.  And so we don’t get to know people the way that we know them.  There’s scientific evidence from DePaul University that people build trust much better when they can put a face to a name, when they know what that person looks like.  They know something about that person.  If they’re just a voice on a conference call or a name on the bottom of an email, there’s an increase in withholding information, lying, exclusion, all those sorts of things because I don’t know that person.

ANDY CROWE:  Somebody told me early in my career, very early in my career, I was probably 22, and they said you need to remember people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  And I was a little bit taken aback that this guy, he was a mentor to me, told me that.  And I wish at that point I had really been able to swallow that and internalize it and understand it because I was so overwhelmingly task oriented that it will quickly turn on you.  There’s an optimal level, and I was not at that level.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Well, there’s something that just, if I can respond to that, something we were talking about off-camera, just to kind of spill the beans a little bit, this notion that when PMI certification and all that stuff came out, that it was all about the process; that it was all about, as long as I have my gantt charts in order and everybody knows what they’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine. And human beings insist on being human beings.  And if we ignore that, if we keep all information transactional, if we don’t take the time to know, hey, Bob has five kids, and this happens, and this happens, you know, so-and-so’s a Buffalo Bills fan, let’s have a moment of prayer for his season, whatever we’re doing, if we don’t take the time to do that, that’s going to show up somewhere else.

ANDY CROWE:  It will because you’re treating people as a means to an end.  You’re objectifying people.  So absolutely.

WAYNE TURMEL:  And if we’re using contractors in our projects, it becomes even worse because there’s a tendency to treat them as interchangeable anyway.

NICK WALKER:  Wayne, if I can jump in here for just a second and make a little observation about our method of communication, because it seems like we’re talking a lot about trust.  And we can see you clearly on the computer screen as you’re talking to us.  We can see the whites of your eyes.  We see all your hand motions.  We see your facial expressions.  You have built our trust by what we see.  However, you’re seeing us in a much wider shot.  There is a whole roomful of people here.  You’re seeing each of us.  You don’t have the same visual connection with us.  So while this is a wonderful tool, it seems like it’s a little bit of a one-way tool, perhaps, in some ways.

WAYNE TURMEL:  I would challenge that.  And here’s why.  Andy has no problem butting in and contributing and saying, hey, wait a minute, hold on.  Nick, on the other hand, has raised his hand three times, and I’ve spoken over him three times.  If you don’t think I have some sense of the dynamic in that room, you’re wrong.

NICK WALKER:  Well, that’s good.  That’s good to know that the trust works both ways.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s true.  That’s funny.

NICK WALKER:  Well, your book, “The Long-Distance Leader,” we want to know how we can get a hold of this book.  I’m sure our listeners do, as well.  How can we do it?

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah.  First of all, it’s from Berrett-Koehler Publishers.  So anywhere basically in the world that you buy or order books, it’s available.  We’re actually – this is so weird.  We’re actually a Hudson’s bestseller in airports.  Which makes sense because the people there are traveling and probably don’t want to.  So they’re trying to figure out how to do this better; right?  So you can buy it anywhere.  There is a website dedicated to the book, LongDistanceLeaderBook.com, where you can get a sample chapter.  You can get some downloads associated with the book.  And then, if you want to learn what we do with our clients and people who want to learn more about this, you can go to RemoteLeadershipInstitute.com, and you’ll find our blog and lots of checklists and assessments and downloads and all kinds of good stuff.

NICK WALKER:  And how could we get in touch with you personally?  Speaking engagements?  Just to get to know you more?

WAYNE TURMEL:  So how can you reach me.  And for those of you who are hearing this odd noise in the background, that would be Byron, the world’s most annoying cockatiel, who shares my workspace.  I apologize for him.  He’s usually much better behaved.  You can reach me personally through LinkedIn.  Absolutely you can do that.  Just Wayne Turmel.  On Twitter, my personal Twitter feed is @wturmel.  The Remote Leadership Institute’s Twitter feed is @leadingremotely.  And then you can just contact us through RemoteLeadershipInstitute.com.

NICK WALKER:  Well, Wayne, we appreciate so much you devoting this time to us.  And we have something for you, too.  It is a Manage This coffee mug that we’re going to send you.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Yeah, it is.

NICK WALKER:  So enjoy that.

WAYNE TURMEL:  You know I will.

NICK WALKER:  And just, you know, use it with our thanks.  Thank you so much again.

WAYNE TURMEL:  Well, thank you guys for the opportunity.  I love talking to PMs and just having these conversations.  So I really appreciate it, guys.

NICK WALKER:  Before we wrap up, we want to ask a favor from our listeners.  We’d love to hear what’s on your mind.  You probably have questions that you’d like to ask our guests in future podcasts.  And we want to hear those questions.  What are you struggling with?  What interests you?  What topics would you like for us to cover here on Manage This?  Just go to the Velociteach Facebook page and ask your questions there.  We’d like to hear from you.

We also want to remind our listeners that you’ve earned some PDUs, Professional Development Units, simply for joining us today.  To claim your free PDUs for your recertifications, go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and just click through the steps.

Well, that’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on September 18th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can always visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And you can tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

8 responses to “Episode 64 – Virtual Teams: Are You in a Long Distance Relationship?”

  1. Claudio says:

    Great interview.. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pasquale Cirullo says:

    Great Interview, very informative. One question. I tried to register the PDU for this episode but it was not found when I searched for it on the PMI CCRS.

  3. Duy Vo Minh says:

    Very good for me.. Thanks for sharing this

  4. Francesco Muro says:

    This podcast is not available on pmi.org to claim PDUs.

  5. I found this PODCAST well done and demonstrated that although we may have the right tools, but we may not always use them the right way. I liked the comment that, “Leading remotely requires you to lead differently”. I do agree that communication mistakes can definitely happen quite easily when it comes to teams working remotely. You don’t have the luxury of seeing body language, facial expressions and other rich environmental cues.

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