Communication & dynamics

Setup and Onboarding

Learning outcomes in loop 2: Student learns about communication in virtual teams. In a virtual environment, limited non-verbal communication and heavy reliance on written communication can lead to misinterpretations. Virtual communication requires emotional intelligence and awareness of communication and interaction styles, as well as a low threshold to contact others.

 

Students learn about dynamics in teams. Facilitating group dynamics in a way that engages everyone and all members feel included is important. As information is scattered and it takes more time and effort to explain things, the tempo of the interactions can become stiffer and breaks can easily be forgotten, which can then lead to multitasking and individuals not concentrating fully.

  • They explain important intercultural differences in communication
  • and teamwork plays a role.
  • In virtual team situations, you use discussion techniques appropriate to the addressee
  • You use conflict resolution strategies in a team.
  • Capture the main points of a conversation.
  • Summarize the content of simple texts in the foreign language again.
  • Use one in the foreign language for everyday situations and for vocabulary appropriate to the occupational field.
  • They differentiate between appropriate oral and written forms of communication.
  • They explain the opportunities and risks for the appearance in analog and
  • digital networks.

 

 

Recommended meeting format: virtual if possible (virtual format enables to experience all the virtual communication related challenges).

 

 

 

Recommended meeting length: 2 times 2h meetings (in a virtual environment learners get exhausted more quickly).

 

 

 

 

Making connection between loop 1 and 2:

a. (30min) Show the individual reflection questions first (as a reminder) and then ask students in smaller groups (different groups than the virtual student teams) discuss the most important take-aways regarding virtual communication from answering individual reflection questions and while doing the onboarding solution in loop 1. Boil the results down to 3-4 main findings. Ask students to go to powerpoint/canva and to choose an infographic (template) and make an infographic about the most important aspects /take-aways of communication in virtual teams. Make an infographic/poster/presentation, illustrating the main take-aways.

b. (15min) Presentation and discussion.

 

Collaboration agreement (5 min) as a lecturer proposes meeting agreement:

  • Microphones off when not speaking
  • Cameras on to allow the instructor to better understand how the learners are doing;
  • Preference for questions (in chat, with voice?).

 

Energiser/ icebreaker (5 min)

Start by asking learners how they are feeling by using reactions (emoticons in zoom). This way the learners will learn the functionalities in zoom/teams or any other platform that is used.

Communication style, consistency and quality

Recommended section length: 2h and 30 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

Intro to communication topic (20 min): Ask students to highlight the positive impressions and cahllenges of the experiences in loop 1 (related to any level of interaction/communication). At least 1 positive experience and 1 challenge.

TIP: the prior discussion can be elaborated to discuss how important it is to share good things in a virtual environment, as it tends to not be discussed so often in virtual meetings. And making a transition between student experiences in loop 1 and topics in loop 2.

Theory (5min): present theory (couple of slides) about communication. Inspiration can be acquired from here

Depending on what the lecturer wishes to focus on, the following activities can be used to acquire practical experience of the prior topics:

Example activity 1: Consistency/ change (15 min)

Brief the participants. Ask all participants to stand up. Tell them that you are going to give them instructions on which direction to look. They have to turn their head (only their head, not the body) and look in the appropriate direction.

Explain the details. When you say, “Up”, the participants should tilt their head and look at the ceiling (or the sky). When you say, “Down”, the participants should lower their head and look at the floor (or their feet). When you say, “Left”, the participants should turn their head to their left. When you say, “Right”, the participants should turn their head to the right.

Give directions. Say the words up, down, left, and right in a random order and encourage the participants to follow your instructions. Keep giving directions at a fairly rapid pace.

Change the meaning of the words. After about a minute, tell the participants that you are going to make a change. From now on, up will mean down and vice versa. So when you say “Down”, the participants should look up at the ceiling. Similarly, when you say “Up”, the participants should look down at their feet. Explain that the meaning of the words left and right remain the same. Call out the four directions in a random order and ask the participants to follow instructions. Remind them, however, that they have to remember the new meaning of the words up and down. You will see many “mistakes” and lots of embarrassed laughter.

Conclude the session. Announce the end of the activity after about another minute.

Communication style (10 min)

Example: give students an example: “a person who always has to be right, and you need to make an agreement with that person within 20minutes”, how would you approach it?

Tie their responses to differences in communication style.

Communication style role-play (20 min): 

The Bono – 6 thinking hats exercise, in a big group. Ask students to count numbers, dedicate each number thinking hats. Present students with a case, and ask them to respond/discuss using their “hats”.

Communication quality and consistency (20 min)

Short theory (5 min): discuss the Key-Items of effective communication, for example:

  • Being consistent (in words and in actions)
  • Being clear (in your intentions, wants, needs and wording)
  • Careful and active listening

Respecting others

 

Debriefing

Ask the participants how difficult it was to follow instructions when the meanings of words were changed. Ask them to discuss any similar experiences they might have had in their real life.

 

 

Learning Points

  • It is important to be consistent (while using some communication tools, giving instructions, etc).
  • It important to listen and pay attention to instructions/ what has been said.
  • It is hard to unlearn things that you are accustomed to (connects with cultural and any other experiences that underlie people’s behaviors, understandings.
  • If there is a real need to change something, then take into account that changes take time – and it’s perfectly okay.
  • There is a need to make sure that everyone understood the changes and probably to repeat the message since people will not grasp things instantly.

Example activity 2: Clarity, drawing game (15 min): Learners will be organized into pairs (breakout rooms). Both will draw a picture consisting of three simple objects (triangle, square and ring). Both will have 2 minutes to explain their picture to the other (without showing it). The other party draws the picture based on the explanation. Then the same thing is repeated – the one who draws will explain, and vice versa. Then the learners compare the results and discuss what works and what does not work in virtual communication.Follow the drawing game with a discussion of lessons learned regarding communication clarity & consistency.

Landing exercise (5 min): Now that learners have learned different aspects about communication in virtual teams, ask them to reflect and write down what will they change about their own communication in the virtual environment?

Inclusion, cohesion & trust

Recommended section length: Up to 2h

 

 

 

 

Energiser/ icebreaker (10 min)

Diversity bingo (explained here)

 

 

 

 

Quick brainstorming (10 min): ask students to say what associates with the three terms. Ask 3-4 students to say what associates with inclusion, and then next 3-4 students about cohesion, etc.

 

 

 

 

Theory (5 min): putting the terms into the context of virtual teamwork.

Inclusion – nobody is forgotten, or left out, everybody can speak out during meetings, and everyone is heard.

Cohesion – team feeling, 1 for all and all for 1. In theory it is easy to say that we are one team, but in reality virtual team members tend to learn quickly that it is more efficient to work separately on different tasks. How to make sure that everybody knows who is doing what and how to have a common understanding of the whole task/project, etc?

Trust – Studies show that people in virtual teams start to overemphasize their own effort and think that other people are working less – how to overcome this?

Reliability – how can you make sure that other people do what they said and also show to other people that you are a person that can be trusted (being more open to share your progress to make the group aware about the small steps that you have been doing towards the end goal).

Virtual meetings tend to be more task-oriented, and thus there is less time to get to know each other on a “human” level to build relationships.

Exercise lessons learned (30 min): split students into three groups and assign them to discuss their own real life virtual student team experiences regarding the topics above (inclusion, cohesion, trust). Each group has one topic. After discussion, they choose one most interesting real-life example and present it to the rest of the class.

 

 

Feedback (45min) 

Theory (5 min): show a short video about feedback

Exercise (30min): Start by analysing with the lerners what is the role of feedback in teams in general and why it is especially important in virtual teams (template available here)

Continue by identifying in a big group the characteristics of constructive and unconstructive feedback.

Discuss within the bigger group how to receive feedback (when it resonates with the receiver, then it will be applied, if not, then it can be thrown in a trash bin).

Then divide learners into pairs and give them a task to give positive and negative feedback to each other based on cases developed by the lecturer.

Example case a) you noticed that your colleague is getting late every time for the meetings for the past month. For that reason everyone else has to wait for him/her and the godo flow of teamwork is affected.. How do you give feedback to your colleague?

Notice – sometimes it is good to start by asking questions. For example, what is the reason for the colleague to be late? Maybe his or her child went to school and it is located in the other part of the city, thus it is impossible for him/her to attend the meeting on time. Thus maybe, the meeting should be rescheduled?

Example case b) you noticed that your colleague is putting additional effort to the work that your team is doing. How do you give feedback, so that it is not just praising but also constructive?

 

 

Landing exercise (15 min): Lecturers can ask learners to take 5 minutes to write down the main take-aways from the loop and share one – for example the most important one – with others.

Homework

Group Assignment 2

a. Team reflection

Together with your teammates, have a look together on the team agreements you made. Is there anything that needs to be changed/adjusted based on the experience of working together so far and based on what you have learned in loop 2?

b. Interviews with team leaders

(Possibility to give some short guidelines for doing effective interviews, and some example questions to ask, depending on the level)

Now that learners have learned effective communication aspects in teams, it is time to zoom out and look at the organizational level. Ask learners to interview team leaders of different virtual teams (from different organizations).

If it is difficult for some reason to ask students to make interviews (either they haven’t been prepared for making good interviews, or they do not have access to virtual team leaders, learners can be asked to:

Familiarise themselves with organizations that operate 100 remotely, based on the following material, or by searching material on their own.

Based on either data, ask learners to come up with a list of best practices for building up effective communication and dynamics within organisations.

Possible deliverables

  • Infographic (still, dynamic GIF)/ poster
  • Podcast/screencast
  • Interview (portrait, live action film)
  • Tutorial
  • Video
  • Presentation
  • Pecha Kucha

c. Feedback to other groups

Learners are asked to analyse deliverables of 2 other groups and provide feedback on their work.

 

 

Individual Assignment 2

a. Reading

Learners are asked to familiarize themselves with materials regarding:

  • culture and ways of working
  • management in virtual teams
  • net-ettiquette

 

Reading material available here

b. Learning diary.

Question 1. Describe how your team currently works in terms of different roles and different responsibilities? Regarding what you learned about communication in a virtual team, think about your team and evaluate your communication?

Question 2. What kind of challenges and benefits have you experienced while working in a multinational and multicultural virtual team?

Question 3

Did you experience misunderstandings, conflicts and crises while working in a virtual team? Can you describe them and identify their origins? Which ones do you consider to be outside of your control and which ones could be tackled? If you have solved them, how?

Question 4. 

Up to this point, what would you say are the factors that matter most in attaining effective virtual teams? What could YOU change to increase YOUR team’s effectiveness?

Question 5.

What have you experienced regarding communication after switching off your digital tools at least 2h per day? If you had the choice, when would you like to communicate virtually and when would you like to communicate physically?