Collaboration takes work and willingness. It isn’t always easy and it takes effort to gain the trust that enables us to think well together. When we begin to resonate with mutual understanding, we foster creativity in each other.
Dr. Sylvia Gaffney and I recently created a model for attending to virtual relationships to assist anyone who is working across distance and difference. The model includes three aspects: distance, delivery, and relational. All three have to be attended to, like a three-legged stool.
When we attend to the distance aspect of our virtual relationships, we are remembering different time zones, different cultures and settings. Communications need to be consistent and clear to draw people together around the work. We have to create space for meeting together—e-mail, social media, teleconferencing and video conferencing are some important vehicles for communication.
Delivery deals with getting things done. Effective, mutually beneficial, and rigorous communications are critical. Collaborative software applications help us manage deliverables, results, expectations, timelines, milestones, and resource loads. Delivery is about the work, and managing projects skillfully and collaboratively is the backbone of delivery.
Even though it’s listed last, the relational aspect is most essential. As human beings, we are designed to resonate together in relationships—relationships that help us survive and thrive, and that offer friendship and support amidst work and daily life. We rely on our rationality to think things through, but the relational aspect demands that we attend to emotions and feelings as well our thoughts and idea. The dry virtual landscape comes to life with richness and depth when we connect with each other with mutual respect and relationships of care. The relational aspect in virtual work includes hearing all voices, including different perspectives, learning from one another, and understanding the feelings that are moving among us as well as the ideas we have.
When we build relationships by carefully involving all three aspects, we enhance collaboration and creativity. Balancing and interweaving the three aspects helps us work across differences and distances to accomplish our goals.