Ice Cream, Push-ups, and Toe Nails

What Do These Things Have in Common?

While promoting his book Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, talks about how he built focus and cohesion among multiple teams on the ground and intelligence teams behind the scenes using video conferencing. “I often ask people what eating ice cream, doing push ups, and cutting you fingernails have in common”, he states in a Wall Street Journal interview. “They’re all things I’ve done on conference calls.”

He goes on to discuss how emails and conference calls are simply not enough to build rich collaboration in teams. The distractions of multi-tasking and the limits of audio-only conferences does not bring adequate focus and richness to team communications.

Every Day, We See the Results of Video Conferencing

We have found this to be true as we work together as team within TecFac and interact with our clients and business partners.  Video allows us to feel connected, observe nuances, and help maintain focus. For example, when you propose a proposition course of action on an audio call and it is met with silence, you have only your imagination to interpret that silence. Do the others on the call not agree with you?  Are they contemplating what you’ve said? Have they become distracted? Or has their connection dropped? With video, I can see if they’re staring at the wall thinking, looking around the room for reaction, or being distracted by something else on their monitor.
We’ve been able to leverage Skype for Business for ourselves and our clients to enable video conferencing in a very cost-effective and scalable manner. The Skype client can be installed on PCs, tablets and mobile phones, allowing individuals to participate from their office, home, or on the road. The rich Skype technology can transmit video on relatively little bandwidth, dramatically enhancing mobility.  We’ve often participated in video conferences from using WiFi on our laptops in a hotel common area with crystal clarity of both voice and video.
Additionally, the various content sharing tools allow everyone on the conference to see the same content in real time.  Screen sharing allows anyone on the call to bring up a spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, or web site for everyone to see. The white board feature allows a facilitator to sketch out the discussion, and the survey tool provides a quick way to solicit feedback.
When we physically meet with team members that work in another location, we often have to stop and think when we were last actually with them because video conferencing keeps us so connected. A tool that was once out of reach for many small to mid-sized companies is now available to the individual team member working out of their home office.
As we wage “war” in our own “battlefields”, the lessons General McChrystal communicates are readily transferable: Video and content sharing play a key role in building focus, gaining trust, and fostering true collaboration, especially among geographically distributed teams.
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