At the APT XV International Conference, I was fortunate enough to encounter type professionals from various disciplines worldwide. Shaking hands with some of the authors whose work I have studied and meeting people I've corresponded with through email, including some of my subscribers and clients, was a very exciting experience!
I chose to attend the session entitled "Introduction to Working Remotely - Leading and Working in Virtual Teams". As a Virtual Assistant, I frequently collaborate with clients who are not located in my geographic region, thus all of our communication is conducted online. Despite the advantages of virtual work, such as reduced commuting time for meetings, communication issues can arise when there is no chance to build a face-to-face connection with a colleague.
Exploring the issues that surface when working remotely, as well as how personality type relates to remote work and how to build relationships with people of different types, Susan Gerke - co-author of "The Quick Guide to Interaction Styles and Working Remotely" with Linda Berens - delved into the complexities of these topics.
Building relationships is more difficult when we are working with someone virtually since we do not have the same degree of contact or frequency of communication. The difficulty of communication is compounded due to the lack of verbal and non-verbal cues present when we interact with each other in person.
When working remotely, Susan discussed the strengths and challenges of the In-Charge, Chart-the-Course, Get-Things-Going, and Behind-the-Scenes Interaction Styles, all of which are part of the Berens' Interaction Styles model. Susan indicated which four Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) types correlate to each of the four Interaction Styles for those of us new to the Berens model.
The In-Charge Interaction Style, corresponding to ESTP, ESTJ, ENTJ and ENFJ, is known for being efficient independent workers who create structure for themselves and make good use of technology. Despite being Extraverts, it is difficult for them to form relationships without face-to-face contact, and they miss the casual workplace conversation which enhances their productivity.
The Chart-the-Course Interaction Style, corresponding to ISTP, ISTJ, INTJ and INFJ, is especially beneficial for Introverts, as it allows them to work best without interruptions, and offers them the chance to ponder how they would like to respond via email or voice mail. Staying connected with others and making themselves heard is more difficult for them. Email usage may exceed what is needed by them.
Excelling in virtual work, the Get-Things-Going Interaction Style (corresponding to ESFP, ESFJ, ENTP and ENFP) can work any time, day or night, and multitask to their heart's delight, without being judged by others for their work style. Loneliness, isolation, and a lack of structure are all challenges they face.
The strengths of virtual work are shared by the Behind-the-Scenes Interaction Style (corresponding to ISFP, ISFJ, INTP and INFP) with the Chart-the-Course Interaction Style. The longer timeframes sometimes needed for this type of work arrangement are better tolerated by those working remotely, as they can sit and think without the pressure of people questioning why they aren't doing anything, and often display more patience. They may find it difficult to adjust to the loneliness of remote work due to their relationship-focused nature, as they are used to the body language that contributes to communication.
In order to build strong virtual relationships, Susan suggested maintaining regular contact and providing updates on all issues and projects; some of her suggestions included:
can help employees feel more connected
Discussing non-work issues can help employees feel more connected if given the time.
We should arrange regular meeting times via telephone or instant messenger.
Determining the frequency and format of communication that they prefer
Make sure to keep track of your communications so that you don't lose touch with someone.
As we discussed the various communication styles associated with Interaction Styles - such as directing compared to informing and responding compared to initiating - I had one of those "Aha" moments that come with understanding type. I was having difficulty accepting his explanation for not being satisfied with some work I had done for him some time ago. After coming to the realization that what I had interpreted as "direction" was in fact just "information," I understood how the problem had come to be and am unlikely to make the same mistake again.
As a Professional Organizer, I have previously utilized type as a tool to assist people in managing their time and workspace effectively; however, I now recognize that it can be equally advantageous in aiding me to communicate with my clients as a Virtual Assistant.