People are not meant to be isolated. And teams are not groups of individual performers. They are an interactive team that takes the time to understand one another. They have each other’s back. They collaborate well. They can anticipate what the other needs/wants based on time-tested trust. Effective teams communicate through a complex array of body language, words, tone and, yes, emails. When we can’t see each other we can more easily mis-read one another. (This is particularly true when working remote).
Whether you are a high-functioning team suddenly finding yourselves working remotely or a group of individuals still working out the kinks towards becoming a team, here are few tips to help you while working remotely:
- Designate certain times of day for in person phone communication check ins with your teammates – whether as a group or 1:1. Be sure to also set times for video check in so you can see one another, show each other something, smile, laugh, share a story, share a look, just SHARE.
- Consistency is key – Developing a routine starts to create a ‘new normal’ and with that we start to feel like we are connected, not isolated, and we can get comfortable with the new ways of staying connected.Try to borrow from existing routines and habits ie: get up and get dressed, be ready to “meet” via video, you can also “commute” to work (get up and walk to your office space), create a process, use your kitchen as you would your cafeteria (stop and get a coffee before you go into your workspace). Better yet, make that a water!You get the idea… find ways to create a routine that feels familiar and that creates structure.
- When we are working with introverts on our team, and they are now remote, you have to ask them what they are thinking, specifically ask them a ‘how’ question. ‘How do you see this taking form?’ ‘How do you see potential execution missteps occurring?’ ‘How do you think we can go about this as a next step?’ Ask them a question that requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to really know what they are thinking, that they ‘got it’, that you have their support.
- Over communication is the successful default. But when people feel isolated, misunderstood, neglected – like they are not a priority, they begin to retreat. They also take action without the customary check-in touchpoints up front. So be clear on how and when you would appreciate interaction and the potential mis-steps without it. Don’t set up calls and systems only to cancel. Keep your word with your team.
The reality is we’re all going to do ‘the work’ with our teams one way or the other.
Either up-front by setting up systems and routines, check-points, and clear communication unique to each teammate, OR we are going to do the work of cleaning up mishaps and messes when things go wrong on the back end. (I definitely advocate you do the work up front. Why? Because that time spent up makes the functionality and the interactions much easier, much more fun, more respectful, and you’ll see better outcomes).
Now is not the time to pull back on your investment in your people. Make sure they get connected. Not just using technology. But by actually engaging – effectively! This is a GREAT time to show support by creating virtual team workshops. Virtual can be engaging, interactive, dynamic, and in the long-run stabilizing — particularly to those who are feeling isolated and dis-connected. They can be done as a series to create a sense of on-going connectivity or they can be held as ½ day programs with interactive breakout exercises, traditional bio breaks, even shared lunch time. Whatever way you choose to support your people . . . Do it now!