Avoid "Jargon Monoxide"- 5 Definitions You Need To Know

Last Updated Oct 17, 2010 1:40 PM EDT

One of my favorite leadership writers is Bob Sutton, author of "The No Asshole Rule" and his new book "Good Boss, Bad Boss". In a recent interview with me he spoke about "Jargon Monoxide"- the unfortunate trend of management writers to engage in jargon and industry-speak so that mere mortals have no idea what they're talking about. The same is true (maybe more so) in technology. In remote management you have both the usual leadership/management challenges mixed with technology. Let's cut through the fog.

Here are five terms that keep coming up, and my attempt to reduce them to English, as well as explain why they matter.

  • Remote teams/virtual teams These two terms get used interchangeably but there are important differences. A remote team is made up of a group of people who permanently (or as permanently as anyone works anywhere nowadays) are assigned to a group or function and answer to a single manager or department.The catch is that not every member is physically located with the others. Communication is primarily through technology with occasional (budget and physics permitting) face to face communication. A virtual team is a trickier animal. It,too,is often dispersed and communicates through technology but may be put together for a short project or task and then disbanded and members either released into the wild (if they're contractors) or given assignments on other teams. More importantly, the team members may answer to different bosses or departments. This means virtual teams must ramp up faster and hit the ground running with less margin for error.
  • Collaboration suites Think of all the tools that you and your team need to share information and get your work done. Email, Instant Messaging, webcams, shared files and the like.That's the collaboration part. Suites are simply blocks of those tools that are designed to work together. You'll hear all kinds of claims about interaction, connectivity and the benefits of one over the other. Start with what you and your team need to actually do and identify the tools that will help you do it. Then work with your company (IT, HR and Finance) to get the tools that will do the job.
  • Synchronous/asynchronous tools Synchronous tools allow you to talk, write or send semaphore signals at the same time as the receiver gets them. Phone calls, live webmeetings and Instant Messaging are good examples. There are also asynchronous tools like file sharing, blogs, wikis and recorded webinars that allow your team to share knowledge and keep informed. For the record Email is not synchronous tool. Write that down, there will be a quiz.
  • Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) This is a philosophy of leadership that says (and, to all the inevitable haters, I'm generalizing here) "the way things get done isn't as important as when it's done and how weIl. When working remotely, micromanagement isn't really an option anyway so you'd best get comfortable with the idea that you have to set goals, help people achieve them and judge them on the final results, not on whether they wear bunny slippers while writing those letters.
  • Trust Do you really know what it means? Trust on teams is an alignment of mutual Goals, Competence and Motives. Most of us develop trust by regular interaction and observing behavior. How will you as a manager create those opportunities so you can build trust between you, your team and what opportunities will you create to help teammates build trust in each other?
It's easy to get caught up in the situation (working remotely) and forget the basics: the team needs to focus on the business at hand, use the tools that help it get there and give them the space to do what they need to do to accomplish all of that. Everything else is so much smoke,noise and "jargon monoxide".

Listen to a full interview with Bob Sutton on The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast
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