Earlier this year, I began working with a new coaching client just as Covid-19 was making its way across the United States. Over the course of our work together, it became clear that one of her main goals was to build stronger relationships at work and create a more resonant and relational team climate. In our initial conversations about this, we stared at each other through our respective screens wrestling with how she could go about doing this in a completely virtual work environment where her days were filled with back-to-back video calls.
I’ve continued to wrestle with this question over the past few months. As a coach in an organization that is all about resonance, relationships and creating positive workplace climates, surely I/we should have the answers. But, the fact is, we have always maintained a bias that in-person contact was important, and I believe, within reason, that we always will. That being said, there is no denying we are moving into an increasingly virtual world and need to find ways to help our clients pivot until it’s safe enough to bring people together for touch points (more likely than full, in-person work) where they can build and maintain relationships with those they work with and lead.
From my own reading, reflection and experimentation, here are a few suggestions for fostering team resonance from your dining room table in the weeks and months ahead.
Idea #1: Community often, regularlyand relationally – At Teleos, we have done many organizational culture assessments and without fail, one of the top issues that surfaces is around communication. This is even more important in a turbulent and virtual environment. Predictable communication can go a long way in helping to manage team member anxiety and helping everyone to feel like they are still part of a cohesive team. And, be conscious to make sure the emails you send are not only about the work that needs to get done but also express interest in and care for your team members. Consider sending a weekly “state of the team” email, sharing about work but also celebrating team accomplishments, personal milestones (like birthdays/anniversaries) and using humor when possible (i.e. sharing a meme that resonates with your current team context).
Idea #2: Focus on the individual – In our work with leaders, we often focus on the team level and how we create positive climates that promote team cohesion and effectiveness. However, in a completely virtual world, it’s important to do individual check-ins to make sure no one is home at their computer feeling completely isolated or overwhelmed. This can be especially important for young or new employees that may still be learning the ropes.
Idea #3: Schedule meetings with the sole purpose of connecting – One shift I noticed in myself and our organization as we moved completely virtual is the tendency to become even more task-focused. And, it makes sense, it’s tough to be on zoom all day so we focused on getting through what we needed to do and then wrapped up the call. Gone were the casual chats before and after meetings or on the margins of the day. One way we remedied this was by implementing short daily “stand ups” at the start of each day. In these meetings, we review what each of us are working on but leave plenty of space for connecting and often end up discussing things like shows we are watching, child care challenges and generally how we are feeling in that particular moment. It’s hard to put one more “unnecessary” meeting on the calendar but it’s so critical to build in the space for people to have unrushed time to share about their lives and to have fun together. If another video call feels daunting, put in a call-in number so members can do a “walk and talk” while re-connecting. You may consider focusing the meetings around a question like “what is something that surprised you this week”? Or pick a positive emotion and take turns sharing how it has shown up in the last day or two.
Idea #4: Find a way to keep your finger on the team pulse – Things shift and change quickly these days – both at work and personally. Get creative in finding a way to gauge your own team climate on a regular basis. This could be creating a survey with questions like “I feel connected to the team” or “my workload feels manageable”. Or, something as simple as having team members check in with an emotion or emoji each day or at the start of a meeting. Whatever it is, it should be something that gives you a baseline read on the team climate and then provides a red flag when the team mood starts heading south and you need to rally the troops and help everyone get reconnected and on track.
I want to hear more about how you all are navigating this challenge with the team and leaders you work with, so join me this Friday at 10:30 am EST for a zoom call to discuss how we can continue to help our leaders create strong relationships and happy teams during a time characterized by isolation and disconnect. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the zoom link to join the call.