Where you live becomes irrelevant in a virtual team – or does it? Recently I had quite a peculiar experience. Graeme had a presentation close to where I live and we agreed to have coffee afterwards at a coffee shop just around the corner from my house. I was there a bit before him and ordered so long while I waited. When he arrived I had the strangest feeling. It wasn’t the excitement of coffee with Graeme (sorry Graeme!). It was the fact that this would be the first coffee I had with one of our team members in MY valley. My space. The piece of earth where so many of my stories intertwine and weave across each other. My piece of earth. My valley. Me.
What can we learn from this experience regarding the importance of geography in virtual teams?
It is possible for us to work together effectively for years without visiting each other physically in our hometown surroundings. By using email, sms, cell phone, this blogger, our website and Postnet we are able to share information and do work and only see each other when we do presentations together. And it works fine. But as soon as someone “enters your space” a deeper connection is made.
To me, as an Afrikaans person living North of Pretoria, it suddenly felt as if being Afrikaans and being from Pretoria is more OK now than it was before. I know this sounds strange and stupid and that it is of course OK to be Afrikaans. But let me be honest for the sake of the analogy: If someone like me – who is totally OK with myself and my culture and my everything – experienced such a strong positive feeling of connection when Graeme visited my valley, there must be some lessons in this for all of us and perhaps for virtual teams in general.
- Where people come from is part of who they are.
- People’s culture and language are part of who they are.
- Relationships grow when people get to know each other more and more.
- To know someone you must also know where they come from.
- Sometimes you must go out of your way to create this special connection.
- Don’t always expect the minority cultures in your team to join and comply with the majority.
- Take care to also visit their “valley”.
- Visiting someone’s valley doesn’t necessarily mean to have coffee in his hometown.
- By REALLY showing interest in one another and by REALLY wanting to understand one another’s background, one can also experience something like this.
I will write more detailed articles on virtual teams and on diversity for the ezine soon. But just see how powerful learning from experiences can be. This is what TomorrowExperiences does. Creating experiences for people, teams and customers to really learn, really grow, and really connect.