Lucidea’s Lens: Knowledge Management Thought Leaders Part 51 – Nancy Settle-Murphy

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

December 14, 2023

Nancy Settle-Murphy is an award-winning facilitator, virtual team alchemist, navigator of differences, presenter, author, and the OG of remote work.

Her specialties include meeting facilitation, virtual collaboration, virtual team leadership, facilitation skills training (both virtual and face-to-face meetings), project team communications, strategic communications during times of change, cross-cultural communications, and leadership coaching.

Nancy is President of Guided Insights, a firm she created in 1994 to provide strategic consulting, training, and facilitation services to companies around the world. She has been a renowned expert in the field of virtual/hybrid leadership and remote collaboration since 2001. Nancy’s primary focus is helping distributed teams and their leaders find new ways to build trust, cultivate healthy relationships, and collaborate more successfully.

Based in Boston, she helps virtual/hybrid teams get important work done, faster and with less friction. Using a combination of consulting, training, coaching, and productivity tools, Nancy helps create environments where virtual teams can thrive, focusing on meeting design and facilitation, running engaging virtual/hybrid meetings, navigating cultural differences, discovering unconscious bias, and strategic planning.

Nancy worked at DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) from 1980 to 1994 (we worked together from 1983 to 1994) and at HP (Hewlett Packard) from 2004 to 2011 (we worked together from 2004 to 2008). I have been a subscriber to Communiqué, her quarterly newsletter, since 2001, when her company was known as Chrysalis International.


  • Temple University – BA, Communications: Focus on anthropology, communications, theology, and documentary filmmaking


  • Guided Insights – Owner, 1994 – Present
  • Hewlett Packard – Organizational Development Consultant, 2004 – 2011
  • Digital Equipment Corporation – Business Consultant, 1980 – 1994



IS Management Handbook edited by Carol V. Brown – Chapter 66: When Meeting Face-to-Face Is Not the Best Option

Leading Effective Virtual Teams: Overcoming Time and Distance

Table of Contents

  1. Unique Challenges of Virtual Teams and Their Leaders
  2. Sizing Up, Onboarding, and Mobilizing Your Virtual Team
  3. Building Trusting Relationships across Boundaries
  4. Best Practices Operating Principles for Virtual Teams
  5. Communications for Collaboration and Cohesion
  6. Managing Performance from Afar
  7. Navigating across Cultures, Time Zones, and the Generational Divide
  8. Troubleshooting Tips for Virtual Teams
  9. Special Challenges of Facilitating Virtual Meetings
  10. ABC s of Designing Great Virtual Meetings
  11. Keeping Remote Participants Engaged
  12. Troubleshooting Virtual Meetings






Sharing Knowledge by Design – Building Intellectual Capital in a Virtual World with Stan Garfield

In an increasingly competitive and volatile world, the ability to share knowledge is a prerequisite for successful growth, especially for organizations that prize intellectual capital as one of their most valuable assets. With organizations becoming more dispersed and complex, it can be an especially daunting task to create an environment where knowledge is easily and freely exchanged among those who have it and those who need it. As today’s baby boomers retire in droves, the imperative to capture and share vital knowledge is critical.

Building a companywide system of knowledge-sharing may take years and sizeable investments in resources and technology. However, there are many practical steps that team leaders can take today to create an environment that encourages and enables the exchange of vital knowledge.

In this Communiqué, we map out ideas about how team leaders can create a knowledge-sharing system in their own virtual backyard. Who knows? One relatively modest knowledge-sharing system may be the springboard by which an enterprise-wide system is born.

  1. Sell the benefits. Senior management needs to be persuaded of the value, given that they may have to lay out additional funding and resources to set up even a modest knowledge management program. Tip: try to estimate the cost of not reusing knowledge. For example, how many people have to spend how many hours generating how many proposals throughout how many organizations each year? How many prospects choose other vendors when proposals are delayed? Chances are, with some simple math, you can make the case for some initial investments.
  2. Appoint a knowledge management leader who can dedicate meaningful time to building the right infrastructure. While this need not be a full-time job in many cases, you will need a sharp person who is conversant in the field of knowledge management to spend dedicated time for the design and launch of any knowledge management program.
  3. Set up a community of practice to start. This community should include people of a certain function, discipline, area of expertise, or field of interest that all share. Make it easy to join and participate. You can start with something as simple as a newsgroup or an email list. Convey the benefits of membership clearly to give people a reason to join. Find venues by which you can promote the available communities of practice to those most likely to be interested.
  4. Create a formal repository in which knowledge can be dropped off. Using a web collaboration technology or a shared messaging system, such a repository needn’t take a lot of time or money to set up. Ask participants to help brainstorm a logical construct, to make loading and accessing relevant knowledge more intuitive for all. Start with a few categories and be prepared to refine after an initial period. Plant a few examples in each category so people will see what type of documents best belong where. Focus efforts on the type of content that has the greatest potential for reuse by others.
  5. Think globally. When setting up a community of practice, be sensitive to cultural differences and local requirements. Make sure that local leadership is in place to tailor the knowledge management program to each region or country as needed. For example, local language may be required in some cases, or a different web portal may be used as the gateway for knowledge in some locations. Strive for a universal look and feel when possible, to make searching and retrieving information easier across all locations.
  6. Encourage the sharing of knowledge by embedding related activities within existing work processes. For example, make it a requirement that post-mortem documents following a consistent format are submitted at the close of a project, or make it mandatory to store proposals in a shared space.
  7. Reward those who show special initiative in sharing knowledge, whether through formal recognition, financial remuneration, or promotion. Consider including knowledge management leadership as part of performance reviews or as a basis for bonus plans, from senior management on down.
  8. Cultivate senior management as champions. Help them to promote the benefits of knowledge management in their lines of business. Provide them with actual case studies and examples they can showcase for others to aspire to. Encourage them to model knowledge-sharing in visible and meaningful ways.
  9. Create a network of knowledge advisors. These people are subject matter experts who help others to leverage available tools and methods so they can help create self-sufficiency among members of the knowledge community. Depending on what percentage of time these people have to devote to their roles, these knowledge advisors can also be instrumental in helping to set up new communities of practice and guiding participants in the creation of principles and norms.
  10. Open the lines of communications among knowledge management subject matter experts, regardless of their exact titles, roles and locations. Encourage them to communicate frequently using multiple channels, sharing what works, what doesn’t, and working to connect different communities of practice. Suggest that they model their own knowledge-sharing techniques for others to learn from.

Laying the foundation for a worthwhile knowledge management program takes careful thought, focused resources, and visible commitment by senior management. You can start with a few straightforward steps within a single organization, and then expand the program as other organizations realize the value.

Networking in a virtual world an essential skill for success with Patti Anklam

Finding the right connections to help you do your job, or to grow into the next one, requires a significant investment of time and effort even when you know all of the right players. But when you’re part of virtual organization, effective networking can be considerably more challenging.

While you may be able to see who’s who from the org chart, the real influencers, potential mentors and key contributors tend to be less obvious. When you are physically surrounded by many of the key players, you can make connections fairly easily with a bit of planning. But when you’re part of a virtual team, you have far fewer opportunities to make the kind of deep connections so important for networking.

This edition of Communiqué provides practical guidelines for productive networking in a virtual world, focusing on finding the right people who can be part of your personal network. Such a network has great intrinsic value, providing a venue for mutual support and enrichment. A thoughtfully-developed network can also help you achieve job and career objectives, both near- and long-term.

Building and sustaining a network consists of four cyclical elements: defining your goal; researching the network; creating conversations; and reciprocating and following up. We will cover the first two elements in this edition. Subsequent issues will cover the final two.

  1. Define your goals: You need to be clear about what you want to achieve by becoming better networked. For example, are you interested in a new job elsewhere in the company? Would you like to improve how you do your current job? Would extending the boundaries of your local network help your team accomplish more? Do you have ideas that you are passionate about sharing with others? While many people thrive on the very act of networking, having a goal can keep you focused on the hard work of getting introductions and braving those “get acquainted” conversations.
  2. Research the network: Networking is very much a task of ferreting out the informal networks in an organization, discovering how work really gets done. However, familiarizing yourself with the formal power base is also important. Learn about reporting relationships, both direct and indirect. Review organizational charts, newsletters, emails and web postings to determine which leaders tend to make important announcements. These may not be the people who actually make the decisions, but you’ll get a good sense for the figureheads in your organization.
  3. Scrutinize company websites for clues. Very often, the real movers and shakers work under the radar, making them more difficult to discern. Scan chat forums to see who responds to important questions. Read blogs to discover who some of the most creative thinkers are. Find out who’s really behind some of the most important and illuminating content on relevant websites.
  4. Identify the boundary spanners. Which people tend to work as part of cross-functional or organization-wide teams? The people who act as bridge-builders are very often those who are regarded as the most trusted, credible and effective by their peers. In addition, they tend to carry a more holistic view of the overall organization than their colleagues who may take a more myopic view as they work primarily with colleagues from their own organizations.
  5. Look for the real thought leaders. Who’s speaking at industry association meetings? Who’s quoted in the press? Who meets regularly with key clients? The real thought leaders are not always those with the loftiest titles. Scour your company’s intranet site as well as the internet to find references that hold clues. Search industry association websites, events calendars and press releases, among other places.
  6. Make friends with people in the know. Pick up the phone and introduce yourself to those who might be able to help you identify key influencers. The people who work in organizations that span the organization may be able to offer the most help. Try asking administrative assistants, chiefs of staff, communication managers, strategic planners, and financial analysts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in gaining entree to important people.
  7. Spend time with people who get things done. People who consistently deliver quality results and meet important commitments are very likely the ones you’ll benefit by working with in the future. Find opportunities to work with them on future projects, or seek their advice when direct collaboration is not possible.
  8. Make connections with people actively involved in Knowledge Management (KM) activities. People who participate in some kind of KM network, including communities of practice, tend to value the moving and sharing of information as a means to successful collaboration. Introduce yourself to some of the KM leaders and see how you can get involved.

Finding the gatekeepers and influencers within a geographically dispersed organization can take dozens of calls, scores of emails, and hundreds of web searches. But if you want to thrive as part of a virtual organization, you need to invest the efforts required to form vital connections that will enrich your personal and professional life.

Listening Tips Great Virtual Leaders Use

  1. Read the signs. Are certain people on your team cancelling status report meetings? Taking longer to reply to emails? Becoming noticeably withdrawn on con calls? All of these can be signs that people need a catalyst to get back on track. Your instincts are to offer help and advice. But tread lightly. If these people doubt their skills or suitability for the task, your offer of help could reinforce those fears. What could be needed is simply time with you acting as a vital sounding board, helping to motivate and focus.
  2. Reach out. If face-to-face is not possible, schedule time to speak. Both of you will need time to prepare for the conversation. Before you pick up the phone, find a quiet place to speak, away from your computer, phone or other distractions. (Nothing can kill an earnest conversation faster than multitasking!) Have your notes in writing in front of you with any details that may be important, as well as a calendar and a project plan.
  3. Listen deeply. Once you have stated your observations, without judgment, simply be quiet. Allow the other person time to gather her thoughts and find the right words, even if it means a minute or two of silence before she speaks. Take notes on a piece of paper and paraphrase every so often to ensure understanding in the absence of visual cues. Carefully ask probing questions for clarification, and only if needed. Refrain from giving advice during this time.
  4. Summarize what you’ve heard. Once you’re satisfied that you have a good understanding of what’s going on, summarize what you’ve heard as objectively as possible, much as a journalist would report the facts. Pause and seek validation. Ask whether there’s anything else that’s important for you to discuss before moving on to the next part of the discussion.
  5. Diagnose the real need. Perhaps the trickiest part of the whole conversation is knowing how to determine what kind of support a person really needs from you. In some cases, you can come right out and ask. (Be very cautious of your wording and tone here. Asking, “Just what do you want me to do?” is very different from asking: “What would be the most helpful actions I can take on your behalf at this point?”) Validate the kind of support you believe he is asking for.
  6. Circle back. Before you end this call, set a time/day with this person to check in to see whether the combination of support and guidance you have offered has made a difference. Also agree on how you will both be kept apprised of actions taken or progress made in the interim. (Once again, use the phone in a quiet, undistracted location for your follow-up meeting to demonstrate how seriously you are taking your commitments to provide her with the needed support.) If you must resort to email, take the time to ask specific questions, referring to notes you have made, versus a terse: “How’s it going?”
Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Enjoy Stan’s blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a free copy of his latest book for Lucidea Press: Knowledge Nuggets: 100 KM Infographics.  Learn about Lucidea’s Presto, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus software with unrivaled KM capabilities that enable successful knowledge curation and sharing.

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