Make the most of IABC/Iowa

Big or small, there are plenty of opportunities to give back and help IABC/Iowa.

Without volunteers, our nonprofit organization wouldn’t be able to provide the great professional development programming, networking opportunities and recognition that we do each year. How you can help:

  • Join the IABC/Iowa board (Members only)
  • Contribute to an event planning committee (Members only)
  • Introduce a speaker
  • Greet and escort guests to and from meeting rooms
  • Work at the registration table
  • Sponsor an event, meeting, etc.

Getting involved is by far the best way to connect with fellow communicators and advance your career. Expand your professional network. Learn some new skills you wouldn’t get exposed to in your day job. Build a stronger resume. In other words, make friends, try new things and benefit professionally in the process.

It’s fun and well worth your time. We promise.

To learn more or get started today contact us – we would love to hear from you!

Journalism and communication master’s program at Iowa State accepting applications

Looking to continue your education and take the next step in your career?

The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University is accepting applications for its master’s program.

Iowa State has a rich educational history in journalism, communication technology, political communication, science and risk communication, and mass communication. The master’s program prepares industry leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to change the industry—not just fit in the industry.

Alumni include university presidents and marketing directors, and Greenlee School graduates hold other key communications positions at a wide range of places such as the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and Wells Fargo.

Iowa State’s goal to equip graduate students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to be successful in the modern media world. The two-year M.S. program offers both an academic and professional track based on a flexible curriculum that allows students to choose courses to help them meet their individual career goals.

The Greenlee School at Iowa State boasts a group of dedicated faculty who excel in teaching and research, features state‐of‐the‐art technology and provides a friendly environment that welcomes diversity of backgrounds.

Get more information about the Greenlee School’s master’s program online, by phone at 515‐294‐4342 or via email at masscomm@iastate.edu.

Applications are considered by the Greenlee School as soon as they are complete. To be considered for assistantships all materials must be received by March 1.

Get recognized for excellence in communications

You know your communications work is amongst the best in the state of Iowa.

Let our experts confirm it by judging your best efforts from 2012 against the work of your peers. Our judges will offer you constructive tips to get even better, and then, in June, we’ll shower you and your organization with praise.

Like last year’s Best in Show winner, Iowa Bankers Association’s Lori Ristau, ABC, you could even take home the biggest prize of all.

The 2013 IABC/Iowa Bronze Quill Awards will once again recognize the best work in the state on strategic communications of all kinds – from Iowa’s top corporations, agencies, freelancers, nonprofits and more.

Download your entry packet today (Word: 350 KB), and make plans to apply. Please read the rules and follow the instructions carefully. Enter by April 23, and save $5 on every submission.

Why the Bronze Quill Awards?

The Bronze Quill Awards program solicits the best work from communicators across the state – professionals such as you – whose work is furthering their organization’s goals and directly contributing to business success.

Bronze Quill Award winners:

  • Demonstrate strategic thinking by understanding their audience’s needs and setting clear objectives that support a business goal
  • Offer strategically creative, effective communication solutions
  • Prove their value and measurable benefits to their organization by successfully meeting the stated goals

By simply applying, you’ll commit yourself to thinking more strategically about your next project.

A case study: How to win a Bronze Quill Award

For more than a decade, IABC/Iowa’s Bronze Quill Awards program has celebrated the best examples of organizational communication in the profession – from writing and design to strategic communication planning.

For a little inspiration and as an example of what award-winning work looks like, learn from last year’s cream of the crop.

K.C. workshop: Strategic communication from research and planning to tactics and measurement

IABC/Iowa has another unique Midwest professional development opportunity to pass along, and once again, it comes with a chance to save some money.

On Sept. 6, in Kansas City, Mo., IABC’s international organization welcomes two of world’s most well-respected communication experts, Steve and Cindy Crescenzo. They’ll host the all-day Strategic Creative Communication Workshopcovering strategic communication from research and planning to tactics and measurement.

If two members from IABC/Iowa attend, they’ll each receive $100 off the registration fee. If they bring a third person to the seminar, that person can attend for free. See the event flyer (PDF: 88 KB) for more details.

Leading from a Distance

6 Virtual Team Leadership Practices

by Michael Leimbach, Ph.D.

My day started early, with a client call that included the account executive in London, the client in Switzerland and me in Minnesota. From there, I joined a four-hour design session, meeting via the Web with people in Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Orlando. I ended my day with a call with engineering groups in Japan and India for a review of a software development effort.

While this may not be a typical day, it is no longer rare, as more and more of us are working with people who are geographically and culturally dispersed. As a result, we find ourselves challenged to develop new skills for adapting to, leading and relating to the people we work with virtually. In some cases, they are individuals we have never met face-to-face.

In today’s global environment, companies are using virtual teams more and more as they confront the need to eliminate redundancy and make better use of scarce resources. Gaining competitive advantage in this environment will depend in part on the ability of employees and leaders to work productively and cost-effectively across a whole new set of boundaries. Leading and working in virtual teams is rapidly becoming the norm.

When virtual teams function at optimal levels, they can produce amazing results. A study reported in the MIT Sloan Management Review shows that virtual teams, when compared to non-virtual teams, can address complex tasks better, work faster, reduce costs more effectively, make better decisions and drive innovation further. However, when virtual teams fail, they fail big time. Wilson Learning’s research has shown that the most productive teams have a high level of diversity and effective leadership. However, when leadership skills are lacking, those highly diverse teams perform poorly compared to low-diversity teams. Clearly, effective team leadership is even more important for virtual teams than for other types of teams.

Six virtual team leadership practices
While many traditional leadership practices apply to virtual teams, there are some important adaptations that need to be made to address the unique challenges faced by virtual teams. Following are six critical leadership practices that can be adapted to enhance virtual team performance.

1. Communicate continuously.
A team’s performance depends on a foundation of trust, and trust is developed through communication. Regular and frequent communication fosters inclusion, provides opportunities for sharing ideas, and builds an esprit de corps within the team.

While virtual team leaders need to use all of the communication tools available (teleconferences, e-mail, web meetings, video conferences and social networks), they also need to create an environment where virtual communication feels as natural as walking into a co-worker’s office.

For example, one team leader set up a team Twitter account. He tweeted several times a day so team members could get to know his thoughts and leadership style. Another leader added a “How was your holiday?” discussion thread to the team’s SharePoint site. Team members were able to share their experiences, photos, and the fun they had over their weekend or vacation, and as a result developed closer bonds with each other. Other groups have engaged in online gaming and attended conferences in 3-D virtual worlds such as Second Life.

2. Create a collaborative culture.
Without strong leadership, virtual team members may adopt a win-lose culture, in which they compete for recognition or resources. Or they may take up a “let’s get along to move along” culture, consenting to things they don’t necessarily agree on just to keep the process moving and failing to challenge each other to high performance. An effective virtual team leader builds a collaborative culture that draws out the best aspects of both competition and cooperation—alignment with a common goal, but with the willingness and freedom to challenge each other to achieve better outcomes.

Creating a collaborative culture can involve leveraging three technologies:

Online meeting sites (e.g., GoToMeeting, WebEx) that create a shared interaction space.
Online project management sites (e.g., SharePoint, LiveLink) that create shared work space.
Social networking sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) that create relationship space.
3. Combine shared responsibility with clear performance expectations.
Like other teams, virtual teams must share responsibility for achieving the team’s goals. This comes from a team objective that gives the team an identity and clear individual performance expectations. This is a particular challenge for virtual teams because distance makes it difficult to share perspectives on what constitutes quality or excellence.

Virtual teams can avoid misunderstandings by documenting key individual and team responsibilities and time frames. Of equal importance are periodic opportunities to celebrate and recognize team and individual accomplishments. Traditional teams will often do this informally, but virtual team leaders need to build this into the team’s schedule.

4. Coach virtually.
Coaching is critical to superior team performance and may be the most important task of a virtual team leader.

Most virtual team leaders know the importance of scheduled team meetings, but regular one-to-one meetings with team members are equally important. Why? Because if the only time a leader talks one-to-one with a team member is when they need to provide corrective coaching, then members begin to dread one-to-one calls, to come prepared to argue, and to be less open to constructive feedback.

However, if coaching is part of a regular one-to-one meeting, members are more open to it, and both the leader and team member feel less stress. In addition, virtual team leaders need to make sure that their observations of performance are well documented (e-mails, reports, project schedules, sales records, etc.), so there is little room for interpretation.

5. Establish clear work processes.
Researchers from the WHU–Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany found that virtual teams that use well-developed work processes outperform those that do not. Processes for setting goals, making plans, solving problems, making decisions, assigning work roles and measuring results help virtual teams function effectively. Well-defined work processes help everyone understand how decisions will be made and how success will be measured.

Different cultures have different expectations concerning processes and procedures that should be taken into account. In some cultures, people are free to express their opinions, but once leaders express theirs, the decision is made and discussion stops. In other cultures, the leader is expected to express his or her opinion along with everyone else, and the decision is reached collaboratively. Clear procedures prevent misunderstanding.

6. Create global style awareness.
For global virtual teams, a lack of cultural sensitivity can undermine almost every aspect of the team’s work, making it difficult to establish trust, arrive at decisions that stick or carry out tasks in a coordinated way.

To work productively and cohesively across cultural boundaries, team members must have insight into the cultural dimensions that affect interpersonal behaviors and preferences. This might include awareness of how various cultures perceive business relationships, view power and authority, and understand the role of the individual versus the community or group.

Team leaders need to pay special attention to how the team is interacting and provide opportunities for team members to discuss and resolve issues related to different cultural assumptions or values.

Recent economic conditions have accelerated the growth of virtual teams, making it more likely that virtual teamwork will be the norm for more and more people. This means that virtual leadership skills will become increasingly important. By adopting these six virtual leadership practices, team leaders will be better prepared to meet the virtual team leadership challenges of today and tomorrow.

 

Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is vice president of Global Research and Design for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With more than 25 years of experience in the field, he provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning and performance improvement capabilities. He has co-authored four books, published numerous professional articles and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences.