5 Ways To Be A More Collaborative Professional

The value of successful collaboration within a team is invaluable. During my time as a post-graduate I have realized how sincerely I enjoy working with others who have a “team player” mentality, as it is easy in business to become solely focused on your own goals. I came across a quote recently by Vince Lombardi, American NFL player, coach, and executive that resonated with my perspective on the importance of teamwork:

“Individual commitment to a group effort: that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

When a team collaborates well, everyone feels like they are contributing to a part of the whole without hesitation or confusion. For me, I think there are ways that each of us as professionals can actively pursue becoming a better team member, which includes collaborating effectively.

Being a team player means actively taking steps to collaborate with your team.

Here are five ways that you can become a more collaborative professional:

  1. Embody positive team attributes. There are many qualities that, when combined, exemplify a team player. These traits can include, but are certainly not limited to being empathetic, inclusive, encouraging, honest, and reliable. Forbes Magazine expands on these character attributes, many of them leading to team success.  Be self aware here – look at these traits and assess if there are areas of your professional (or personal!) life that you can take active steps to improve.
  2. Meet with professionals in similar roles, and share best practices. I’ve personally gained so much by reaching out to people within my company who are internal/executive communicators like myself. Most often than not, these relationships can serve you in the future by coming full circle and offering further opportunities for partnership and collaboration.
  3. Use the tools your company or group provides. Does your company have an intranet? Bookmark your team page and actively contribute. Does your small group at school have a group text? Be engaging and responsive there. Many of my colleagues have heard me say “An engaged team is a strong team” and I stand by that phrase whole heartedly because I have seen what a collaborative team can accomplish!
  4. Be well versed in interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. Let’s be real, even the most well functioning teams experience conflict whether that be a miscommunicated email or a failed deadline. Knowing how to communicate and collaborate through the conflict shows a level of professionalism that is appreciated and respected by your colleagues.
  5. Raise your hand to lead and be a part of exciting projects and opportunities that come your way. Working in new settings with new people presents you with a great chance to collaborate and experience new growth as a professional.

 

By becoming a better collaborator you can ultimately help yourself. You help yourself with future team projects, opportunities that come your way, conflicts you will have to deal with, and so many more interpersonal interactions. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to take these steps together, and become the best professionals we can be not only for ourselves but for our teams.

Have No Fear, Communication Studies Majors!

Last month a staff member from the Biola University career center gave me a call, looking to ask me about what life was like post-graduation as a Communication Studies major. I remember exploring multiple majors in college – from Political Science, to Sociology, and finally to Communication Studies. When I landed in this department during the second semester of my Sophomore year, I recall loving that this major could take me anywhere. However, for some students the ambiguity can feel overwhelming. What can I do with a communication major? Where will interpersonal, organizational, theatrical, or rhetorical communication get me? Would you ever think that a Liberal Arts degree could lead you to the Technology Industry?

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Not too long ago I read an excellent article titled, “Liberal Arts in the Data Age” from the Harvard Business Review, and I remember connecting with some of the main points that the author makes:

  • People are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do.
  • If we want to prepare students to solve large-scale human problems, we must push them to widen, not narrow, their education and interests.
  • The CEOs of YouTube, Slack, and AirBnb all have liberal arts degrees.

It has been so exciting to see the industries that my classmates have entered – Entertainment, Action Sports, Fashion, Non-Profit, Education, Photography, and let’s not forget Technology. Students who pursue a Liberal Arts degree should keep their minds open to the possibilities that follow after graduation, including reacting to opportunities outside of their norms. For me, it was accepting a job at a technology company. I remember writing my first ever blog post here about being a “Communication Girl in an Engineering World”and shaking my head at where I’d landed after graduation thinking, “could this industry be any more opposite than me?” Fast forward to three years later and I have grown and progressed professionally more than I could have imagined.

If you are a communications professional, or a student wondering where to use your communication studies education, the options are endless and the technology industry has a place for you. Let’s keep this conversation going – message me on LinkedIn or tweet at me and I’d be happy to chat.

Why Culture Always Wins

During my three years at Dell EMC, we have consistently achieved “Best Place to Work” status, and recently Dell Technologies has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top Companies of 2017. For me, the driving factor in this success is our emphasis on company culture. As a new company, I credit the efforts that our leadership and transformation teams have placed on creating a foundational culture code.

One of the best articles that I’ve read about Dell’s “Culture Code” is What Makes a Company Great? Culture is Key by Dell’s Chief HR Officer, Steve Price.

“As a company that recently closed one of the biggest tech mergers in history with EMC, we made listening a top priority as we looked to unify our company culture as part of the new Dell Technologies. We turned our collective ears toward team members from both former Dell and EMC to define our corporate culture as the driver of how we run the business, go to market, work effectively together and provide inspirational leadership.”

As both a communicator and a team member at Dell EMC, watching the communications unfold to promote our culture code has been amazing, and our internal communications team has done a great job.

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I’ve really appreciated the way that our culture code is organized because it is easy to embed into the communications I craft for the Chief Technology Officer and his team. For example, at quarterly All Hands meetings we are able to dedicate time to connecting our major wins to our fives values that you see above, which makes the direct connection between the work that people do, and the organizational culture.

In his most recent Direct2Dell article, Steve Price addresses the importance of effective leadership development in the area of supporting and inspiring company culture. He says that it is expected for leaders to embed these values into the way they run their business units, and I couldn’t agree more. In the end, if our leaders and team members are in, our customers are in, and then we all #GoBigWinBig!

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What’s New in the Communicationsphere

As many of you know, I’m a big Twitter user. I practically use it every day to learn more about my industry, my peers, and what’s going on in this big world of ours. I’ve found a huge benefit in using Twitter to stay up to date on the pulse of corporate communications, and I often re-tweet articles or blog posts that I find interesting. Allow me to share a few of the golden nuggets I’ve found while scrolling through my feed recently:

“5 Keys to Engaging Corporate Culture” by Jacob Morgan at Inc.com

The author in this article gives kudos to CEO James White from Jamba Juice, a well known and refreshing chain store just minutes from my office, who has embedded a strong culture within the company that has lasted through tumultuous times. Two of the five key ways that you build a strong culture are communicating from the top down, and actively engaging your community. I believe it is crucial for communicators to have a seat at the leadership table, and I’ve seen a lot of great employee campaigns come to fruition at my company because of this. We even have our culture code listed as an FY’18 objective as a company! I can imagine, however, that there are some companies out there where communicators might not have a seat at the table, and the challenges that they would face as a result of that. From experience, it is SO SO SO important that leadership is onboard with corporate communication strategy. Otherwise, you cannot expect a strong and engaged community.

“How Every Internal Communicator Can Be a Rockstar” by Alison Davis on LinkedIn

In this article written by Davis & Company’s CEO Alison Davis, internal communicators are encouraged to rise above and become rockstars. With a few of her helpful tips, she suggests that you can become a rockstar communicator by:

  • Channeling the characteristics of a rock star.
  • Using evidence to make your case.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Changing the conversation from tactical to strategic.
  • Focusing on outcomes.
  • Not letting setbacks get you down.
  • Measuring your results.

“The Workplace is the New Corporate Communications Platform”

Intriguing title, wouldn’t you say? This article by WorkDesign Magazine is about eBay, and the gorgeous renovations they’ve completed at their headquarters in California including touchscreen walls, natural light, unique installations, and more. They claim, “These dynamic experiences not only invite guests to engage with the company’s story; they also help transform the eBay workforce into a connected, empowered community.” One of the tips they suggested for starting your own workplace transformation that really made me think was to use your company data to bring your brand to life. Reading this gave me some really great ideas about implementing more data into my own communication programs.

“Communications 2006 v.s. 2016”

If you’re looking for a good laugh, and a trip down memory lane, read this short article and remember the times when social media didn’t exist, there was no such thing as internal communications, and smartphones weren’t a thing!

If you’re interested in more articles like these, give me a follow at @beckyykurtz.

Will your New Years Resolution be to Videoconference More?

Recently when I was doing my daily scroll through my Twitter feed, I came across an article titled “What I’ve Learned from 30 Days of Videoconferencing.” Immediately I clicked the link to read more because I am and will always be a fan of using videoconferencing in business to interact with your team internally. Tools such as Skype and FaceTime have also played an integral role in my life as my friends and family are scattered throughout the country.

A lot of times, especially at work, I am surprised at how little we utilize videoconferencing despite the tools we have at our fingertips. In agreement with the article that I read this week, I have found a few reasons why you should integrate videoconferencing into your routine at work.

  1. Building camaraderie. Getting to know each other is essential to team building, especially when all of the team members are not present in the same office as you. In my eyes, a good team has a strong bond, and how can you achieve that if you never see each other?
  2. Strengthening engagement. There are many times on calls where we can become distracted or disengaged with the discussion. With video conferencing, you feel like you are there in the room with your team as a vital and important part of the matter at hand.
  3. Nonverbal Communication. Who has ever experienced the long and awkward silence when asking a question over the phone? You can’t see me now, but I am virtually raising my hand! With video conferencing you are able to read the nonverbal signals that your teammates are giving you as you speak – nodding of heads, smiles, postures, and even eye contact. Trust me, it makes all the difference.
  4. Breaking global barriers. In a perfect world, each of us would be meeting with our teams face to face, but then we wouldn’t have the wonderful and diverse community that we do within our company. We need to have team members in every country to function successfully, and an easy way to break down the barrier of distance is to turn on your video camera and engage in your meetings face to face.

Now let me build the case for those who may still be skeptical. The two reasons that I find most teams and individuals do not use video regularly are because they forget that it is an option or they or someone on their team are not comfortable using video. My colleagues at work also reminded me of the occasional technical difficulty that it brings after I posted this blog internally to hear more thoughts on the subject.

I’ll tell you one thing – as someone who works at a small location with her team spanning different locations, it means the world to me when managers and colleagues hop on video chat to meet me face to face. When someone takes the time and effort to remember to use video chat, I do not forget it. Second, I have had the pleasure of being a part of a team over the past two years that is bi-coastal; one made up of a diverse group of individuals with different skill sets than my own, and one consisting of BOTH introverts and extroverts alike. I can speak for the team when I say this using video conferencing for every single one of our team meetings and manager 1x1s made a transformational difference in the way our team functioned.

If anything, I hope that this reflection has you (at least) consider integrating videoconferencing into your work and personal routines.

Internal Communication Challenges & How To Combat Them

Over time I have developed a small set of best practices that I use to foster a strong brand and communication strategy, and help communication teams who are looking to create or re-brand their internal communications. The following practices came about by understanding the challenges that my own organization faces when communicating with our team members.

Employees digest communication differently.

Team members digest communication in a variety of ways. so we provide multiple channels to reach our broad audience. With so many channels it can be easy to overlook outdated information, on our employee intranet, for example, and this is why we use processes to ensure our communications are refreshed on a regular basis – keep the fresh communications comin’!

Additionally, we survey departmental leaders to understand how exactly their teams are digesting these different methods of communication, and use their feedback to adjust our many channels accordingly.

1 organization. 6 departments. Countless teams.

How do you successfully communicate when your organization is 1,000 strong and spread over many geographies? This is where open and frequent leadership communication plays a large role. We’ve developed a series of ways for our leadership team to do this – weekly emails, a leadership blogging schedule, our quarterly All Hands meeting, etc. There can never be too much leadership transparency.

A great way to make sure all departments stay connected is to create a Communication & Collaboration team, comprised of department members within your organization who are highly visible and play a role in communications. By doing this, you can keep department leads up to date, share best practices with one another, and make sure you are checking the pulse of your organization by going straight to the source.

Another way that we ensure consistency and awareness across our organization is by creating Communication as a Service for our team members – a company intranet site that is a “one stop shop” for all branding, organizational, and best practice materials. We also pair this self-service site with a list of services that we are happy to provide – proofing communications, designing graphics, creating campaigns, and more.

I’m convinced that employee engagement is the foundation to a strong community.

The best way to inspire and encourage team members to engage is to equip them with opportunities and outlets to do so. Our Community Engagement team has 40+ diverse individuals that help our community to flourish. They foster community by organizing social and community involvement events, creating opportunities for innovative thinking, and brainstorming new ways to recognize and showcase our team. I’ve seen first hand that an engaged community is a strong community!

While implementing all of these best practices, I maintain a tight relationship with the corporate communication team at my company to ensure that I stay up to date on all company-wide communications and best practices. It never hurts to have a strong network!

For more information about communication best practices, or to share some of your own findings, reach out to Becky.Kurtz@dell.com

Welcome to Dell Technologies

Before entering the technology industry I had not considered the rate at which things would change. Within one year at EMC I had three different managers, and within two years I belong to a totally different company. You may have heard that my company was involved in the biggest merger in the history of the tech industry! I now belong to a group of companies called Dell Technologies, and EMC was bought by Dell for an amount of cash so large that I cannot even fathom it ($67 Billion)! We officially became “Dell EMC” on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and the future looks bright for us.

As I sat at the Dell Technologies Celebration in Palo Alto, CA today, I could not hold back the nostalgia that I was experiencing. I remember that day in October when I found out EMC was being acquired; I remember the roller coaster of emotions the past year has brought; and I know how inspired I felt today surrounded by 140,000 of my new team members around the globe as we celebrated Dell Technologies.

I’ve had many conversations recently about what I have learned during the time period of October 2015-September 2016 – the time during which I waited for the deal to close. Since this was the first time I had ever been involved with a merger, let alone one of this scale, I was given the advice early on to sit back and observe…so I did! Lessons learned? Plenty. Let me share some of those with you:

  • Patience is a virtue. As I explained earlier, it took almost 1 year for the Dell and EMC deal to close. Practicing patience allowed me to slowly take in all of the information that was coming my way!
  • Expect to experience an overflow of emotions. Allow me to be vulnerable for a moment as I share that throughout the past year I have felt shock, excitement, anxiety, fear, and joy…on repeat. Although not many colleagues at work shared these true emotions, I’m sure that I couldn’t have been the only one.
  • Brace yourself for speculations. When there is a waiting period of almost 1 year, there are many speculations that are made over time. For me, I trusted my leadership to be transparent (which they were), sat back, and observed – that helped me to “keep my cool” when I did hear chatter of those speculations.
  • “Business as usual.” Just because your company is being sold does not mean that your work will cease to exist! Keep working hard.

Change is constant in the technology industry, and some of the most important lessons that I have learned are how to adapt to those changes. I’m thankful for my time with EMC, and look forward to the dawn of this new era with DELL EMC!

Photos from our Dell Technologies Celebration, where I was a live blogger for our remote viewers.