A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams
By Yael Zofi
List price: $27.95
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Because working virtually reduces travel expenses and the need for office space, having virtual teams can lower an organization’s costs. And, it is easier than ever to set up these teams, thanks to technology. Most important, virtual teams let you bring together the most appropriate expertise for a project, no matter where that expertise is located.
The advantages are great, but so are the challenges for managers of virtual teams, author Yael Zofi notes. How do you build rapport among team members? How do you assess your employees and know if they’re really doing what they say they are? How do you spot poor performance in time to redirect an employee? And if you can’t see your team members daily, how do you model the way you’d like them to work?
In A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, Zofi walks managers through the steps for creating and running new teams. She also offers advice for managers who are already working with existing virtual teams. Managers can use the book as a text on the whole team-building process, or they can dip into it for what they need at a given moment, such as help with getting deliverables out the door or advice on cross-cultural communications.
Managers learn the stages of virtual team development—setting up, following through and refreshing. Setup involves setting goals, creating team rules, and assessing team members’ abilities as well as their ease with virtual communications and technologies. Follow-through means building trust, establishing accountability, managing conflicts among team members and getting the work done. Refreshing involves checking in with team members, identifying potential improvements and debriefing if the virtual team disbands.
Zofi covers these and other topics in detail, and uses case studies to show what real managers did in tough situations. Among the specific advice she offers are tips on how to:
- Select team members and conduct orientation for a newly formed team, or introduce a new member to an existing team.
- Use shared calendars and other tools to keep everyone informed.
- Deal with “lost riders,” employees who push back deadlines and lag in replying to calls or e-mails.
- Use technology more effectively. Get tips on writing efficient e-mails, leaving more useful voice mails, running better web conferences and more.
- Create camaraderie among team members by creating a team website with personal biographies and interests, or setting aside some meeting time for catching up personally.
- Build accountability within virtual teams so that everyone is dependable and keeps commitments. The book includes an “accountability action plan” the team can use to spell out who does what and the schedule.
- Handle conflicts and roadblocks. Zofi guides managers on how to mediate a conflict when the parties can’t be in the same room.
- Get deliverables out the door. The book offers checklists for managing deliverables and advice on using tracking technologies for managing projects.
- Work with cross-cultural teams where communications may need to be tailored carefully to account for different languages and cultural norms.
By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
List price: $14.95
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If your organization is dashing headlong toward new social media—tossing up Facebook pages, creating corporate wikis and throwing customer surveys online—hold on a moment. Did the technology seduce you first, or did you stop and think about the relationships you want to forge with the technology?
Too often, organizations start with technology, when their starting point for using social technologies should be learning about the people they want to reach, authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff write in Groundswell. The title refers to what they call the “social trend in which people use technology to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies.”
And they note: “If you’re a company, this is a challenge.”
To meet that challenge and “make the groundswell your ally,” Li and Bernoff lay out what this trend means, what to do about it and how to use it successfully for your organization.
The social media revolution can threaten companies and brands as customers post reviews and comments all over the Internet, and the book provides examples of how firms ended up with black eyes after negative postings or images raced across the ether. But your focus, the authors emphasize, should be on making the groundswell of social media your ally, not your enemy.
The book gives a rundown of social technology basics, explaining how each works, who tends to participate, how each threatens institutions’ power and how you can leverage the technology for your organization’s benefit. Technologies discussed include blogs; podcasts; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; virtual worlds; collaborative efforts such as wikis and open source sites; and online forums, ratings and reviews.
Readers then learn how to profile people based on which groundswell activities they use and how they use them. These profiles can help companies and organizations design sites and other tools tailored to what specific groups want.
A four-step approach to planning your groundswell strategy starts with figuring out what your customers are ready for. Then the authors take readers through how to set goals for their online presence: Do you want to listen to customers to get ideas about your marketing? Talk to customers to spread messages about your organization? Locate your most devoted customers and energize them to help you promote your brand?
The next step is creating strategies for how you want to change relationships with customers, and the last step is looking at technology and applications most appropriate for the people, objectives and strategy you’ve identified.
The book covers ideas in more detail, such as:
“Listening to the groundswell.” This goes beyond typical market research. Now, organizations can see people’s opinions hourly on blogs, forums and more. Learn to navigate what people are saying about you as well as how to set up a “private community” online, much like a focus group, and how to monitor your brands online.
“Talking with the groundswell.” Learn to use techniques including viral videos, blogs, social networking, online communities and sites with user-generated content. The authors look at when brands should use social networking, how to measure results of your participation in social networks and how to blog successfully to get your message across.
“Energizing the groundswell.” This means getting devoted customers to talk up your company or products online. There are technology firms selling “word of mouth programs” to help you find and use these product “evangelists.” And you can use ratings and reviews sites to solicit and spread comments.
“Embracing the groundswell.” Are you ready to develop and change products based on what customers say? Li and Bernoff show how to involve customers in product innovation.
A chapter on Twitter focuses on ways these pithy updates have gained huge influence and provides tactics for using Twitter to reach customers.
Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies
By Lisa Guerin, J.D.
List price: $34.99
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How do you tell employees to keep certain content out of their workplace e-mails? How do you control employees’ Internet use—and should you control it? Do you need a policy about personal cell phone use at work?
This handbook, an updated edition, lets readers go straight to the tips they need, whether they’re looking to set up comprehensive technology use policies or just trying to figure out who should be allowed to post on the company’s official blog today.
Author Lisa Guerin structures Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies by technology type, with chapters on e-mail, Internet use, instant messaging, blogging, social media (including Facebook and Twitter), cell phones, portable devices and laptops, and cameras.
Guerin notes that companies need technology policies to protect themselves legally, to protect their assets and trade secrets, to have grounds for discipline when needed, and to protect customer and employee privacy.
She advises on how to start creating policies by figuring out what the organization currently does or doesn’t do about technology use. For each type of technology, the book offers ideas on appropriate use, samples of policy language and guidelines for communicating policies to employees. Each chapter ends with a sample policy covering that technology.
For example, the chapter on e-mail provides specific language to use in policies, such as detailed statements on not soliciting via e-mail. The chapter also provides advice on keeping the tone and content of e-mails professional, not opening attachments from unknown sources, and keeping and deleting e-mail messages.
With social media, real-life examples show how brief Twitter postings can spark defamation suits, and how an employee’s entirely personal blog can end up with his employer being sued. Advice on social media policies includes who should post, guidelines for posting legal and appropriate information, authorship questions, and tips on how to handle comments posted by readers.
The book includes a CD-ROM containing sample policies.
Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms
By Michelle Golden
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011
List price: $45
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Employers are tempted by the potential benefits of social media—all those clicks bringing people to your business!—but how can businesses, especially professional services firms, use social media most effectively?
Author Michelle Golden, who has specialized in building (or training accountants to build) CPA blogs, opens Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms with the basics, including definitions of social media and fundamental rules and policies for using them. She then compares different types of social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs) and how well each one meets specific business needs.
Golden provides real-life examples of how business users leveraged social media for marketing, self-publishing, and engagement and networking. Because the book’s focus is on social media use by professional services firms, the examples come from lawyers and accountants—but the lessons can apply widely.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn get detailed treatment. Golden covers how to set up each type of account and teaches the specialized lingo each uses. She also advises readers on how to get business benefits out of each. For example, readers learn how to create a company Facebook page, how to promote the company’s Facebook presence, how to interact with others on the networking site LinkedIn, and more.
A section on blogs describes what they are, the tools needed to create them and blogging basics such as a detailed breakdown of the parts of a blog post. There’s advice on starting and maintaining a company blog; considerations include deciding who should post, preparing the authors, determining content, figuring out who the desired readers are and promoting the newly launched blog.
Golden devotes a chapter to writing for the Internet, guiding readers on how to craft both content and style for the online audience. She offers ideas for how to write stronger blog posts, find ideas, create online “e-books” for others to download, create podcasts and video content, and reuse content across different social media.
Social media etiquette tips, a best practices list and a glossary round out the book.