I believe in Skype.
For those of you who don’t know, Skype is a program that lets you make phone calls over the internet. Calls are free if you call someone else running Skype, and cheap to a standard phone line. Skype also works as an instant messaging program. It’s secure, and it’s instantaneous.
I love Skype. It lets your employees scattered around the world feel like a single team. It can erase the divide between field and headquarters by making communications less formal. Using Skype phone, you’ve got time to chat a little before doing your business, because you’re not costing money or burning cell phone minutes. Using it as an instant messenger, you can pop off a quick informal question whenever you need to know something.
Easy, informal communication builds relationships. It connects your people, and makes them feel like they’re part of something. It makes your reports more useful, your programs better designed, and your grant proposals more accurate. It lets your respond more quickly in a crisis, and change your projects if they’re not working.
A caveat – you need to be a well-managed and an utterly transparent organization to use Skype well. Skype will reveal the fault lines of your organization very, very fast. When gossip can shoot across the globe in the blink of an eye, nothing stays secret for long. Unhappiness or fear will spread from person to person like a virus, and mistreatment of one employee will soon be known to all.