I got interested in virtual teams and virtual work a few years ago when I learned that some of my former students felt that, while their business-school education had prepared them well to collaborate in face-to-face teams, it fell short in readying them to participate on geographically dispersed teams in which very little interaction was face-to-face. As a result of this finding, I developed a well-received virtual-teams project in my business-communication classes. It was at about this same time that my interest in storytelling was burgeoning; thus, I’m quite interested in convergences between virtual work and storytelling.
That’s one reason I was so delighted when I discovered that Jessica Lipnack, co-author of probably the definitive book on virtual teams, was also a member of Worldwide Story Work. In her Q&A with A Storied Career, she discussed the value of storytelling in virtual teams.
Here’s another bit of reinforcement for the idea that these two practices should go hand-in-hand. It’s from the Virtual Meetings Success blog (I could not identify an author on the site):
… hold your virtual meetings with a human touch. This human touch includes telling stories, which stick.
Effective storytelling in virtual meetings is the key to highly productive, relationship-focused, business meetings.
This is exactly what people do when they meet in person. We tell tales. If you think back to your favorite boss or most-admired leader, I bet this is a quality they had. They could tell stories. Stories with a message. Stories, which inspire. And stories you still remember, many years later.
If you want to recreate the intimacy of meeting face-to-face with your team, learn to tell emotional stories. If you want to increase collaboration in your virtual team meetings, encourage participants to tell stories.
Well-told stories help build rapport and trust in distance teams.
The current economy will likely see a surge in virtual work and telecommuting. Tools to ease the stress of this work are indeed valuable.