DIM SUM, PART XVI: THE VIRTUAL INNER CIRCLE
has become so large and geographically decentralized that
making the leadership group feel “connected” becomes
ever more difficult by the day. Different organizational and
cultural characteristics are emerging across the boundaries.
And it’s too expensive to fly people in from all over
the world on a regular basis.
to think about: Is a virtual group at the top acceptable?
How does one build trust virtually across a management group?
no substitute for face-to-face interactions. But let’s
face it, they’re often impractical. Sometimes, a virtual
team is your only option. And when that’s the case,
the key is ensuring a level playing field, and also making
sure that each person in the group has equal “membership”
responsibilities (and is held accountable for those responsibilities).
offer one small but highly effective example of how to level
the playing field, which we figured out after some hard experience
at Digitas. Sixty or seventy percent of the people at the
executive level at Digitas work from the company’s Boston
headquarters. But when the company convenes its regular teleconference
meeting of that group, with participants from all over the
country and the rest of the world, each person is required
to attend the conference call from his or her own office.
No grouping. No taking the call together. The theory, rooted
in reality, is that when the group at headquarters sat together
in one room, they inadvertently created an “unfair advantage”
through their proximity. They were able to read each other’s
body language, pass notes, and the like. They also, inadvertently,
sent a “We/they” message to those outside the
call-ins are now marginally more expensive than having a group
assemble in a conference room “on speakerphone”
with a few scattered callers patched in. But the advantage
of having everyone on equal footing outweighs the expense.
How about you? How has your organization
handled a geographically-dispersed senior management team?
What worked and didn't work? Let
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