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Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began... Read more

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Trust, Face and Tribe – The Telework Dilemma

CHAPMASTTelework would seem to have everything going for it. It takes advantage of technology, saves time and the environment, and cuts down on office space. So why isn’t it more popular?

On the opposing side, bosses often still struggle with trusting people to work when they can’t be seen. There’s also the matter of “face” – as a boss, do I look as important if half my office cubicles are empty and other bosses complain that my staff can’t be found? And finally, as a good leader, I might reasonably ask if team “feel” and productivity is harmed when people seldom see each other.

Ask about Telework in any social forum and you’ll soon be overwhelmed with viewpoints. You’ll also encounter some very strong feelings. We’re emotionally invested in the Telework debate because it speaks to our innermost selves and our need for validation and recognition.

The most testing environments for Telework are ones in which there is a mix of Telework and regular commuting. In these environments, and without careful management, we risk creating a whole new generation of opportunity-rich and opportunity-poor workers. Humans are physiologically wired to live in tribes, and the tendency to have higher affinity for people we see and touch – even if we disagree with them – has been validated again and again in research studies. Depending on what you want out of work, and on what the boss needs the team to do, mixed Telework and commuting environments can carry a significant price tag in equal opportunity and team productivity.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly ended Telework for largely this reason, and both – Mayer especially – have taken heavy fire because of it. Yet both are turning around large organizations, and both are presumably looking for the best solutions.

One of the biggest problems in the Telework debate is that the metrics are very rubbery, even when focused on personal benefit and obvious savings. When it comes to tribal benefits and team productivity, there are no useful metrics at all. In workplaces where a mix of Telework and commuting potentially makes sense, we need much better ways of tracking the team results – and we also need to be careful that we don’t accidentally undo decades of striving for equal opportunity in the workplace.

John Kolm is the CEO of Team Results USA, a team development company that specializes in team productivity and operational readiness. Everyone at Team Results telecommutes.

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John Kolm

About John Kolm

Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer.

Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began in 1993. Driven by frustration with the team development options then available to business and government, and with encouragement from early clients, they applied their academic training and practical leadership experience to build the unique approach to team productivity improvement that eventually became Team Results. The company grew rapidly, expanded to a wholly US-owned branch in the United States in 2005, and now operates as a very successful business in both hemispheres.

In 2004 John and Peter wrote the global bestseller “Crocodile Charlie and the Holy Grail” (Penguin, available on Amazon.com), consolidating ten years of work with peak clients into a compelling story about team productivity, leadership in business and government, and happiness at work. The book has been re-published in seven languages and fourteen countries, and a sequel is in the works. John is also the author of numerous articles and papers on team dynamics in the modern workplace, some of which can be found in the News Room at www.teamresultsusa.com .

John is qualified in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, and in mathematics and statistics from the U.S. National Cryptologic School, where he also taught on the faculty. Email him at John.kolm@teamresultsusa.com .

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