Over the past couple of weeks, despite the Covid-19 impact on our world, many organisations are still going ahead with plans to build engaged and winning teams using virtual means rather than face to face.
And that is great news! What this means is that there is still a mindset in organisations and amongst leaders that getting your team on the same page, connected and engaged is still a priority.
In fact, I’d go one step further and suggest that these activities are more important today for the most obvious reason that we are forced to be physically distant. But just because you can’t be physically in the same space doesn’t mean you can’t go a good way down the track to building an engaged team. The quality of online sharing technology is such that there is almost no excuse for not being able to check-in on each other or share and create rituals that are good for you and the team.
However if you are looking for something that operates at a deeper level, that you would normally get from an in-person event where there is the ability to be in the same place to workshop your rules of engagement and shared values over a couple of days, you may come up a little short. The reality is that part of our decision making when it comes to building trust and closeness is driven by our ability to see, hear and experience each other in a group context. We only get part of that picture when we are seeking to do this virtually; we get it in snapshots from the waist up and in individual contexts without being able to see and experience the interplay and dynamic between people. As we know it’s the dynamic that we are working with to create the foundation for resilient and sustainable relationships.
So, what can we do to build engaging teams in this era of remote working?
The good news is that we can still build fantastic rapport in the team. We can still lay the groundwork for resilient relationships and an engaged team. And if your team has been together for a while before having to work remotely, then there’s a pretty good chance with the right guidance that you can maintain the momentum and levels of engagement that exist in your team.
Below are three principles to apply when thinking about your next virtual teaming event. They are principles I apply and that I’ve seen others apply to good effect:
Accept that it’s just going to look and feel different.
-This may be more targeted towards facilitators and those who lean towards being perfectionists, who love an event that looks and feels a certain way and delivers a known outcome. Accepting that it will be virtual and still yield good outcomes is a perceptual hurdle to get over, but once you do you will be glad you continued down this path.
Put time into your planning and communications for the event.
-You will need to plan more than you do for a face to face event. Contrary to popular belief, virtual does not mean less effort. Put the time aside to thoroughly plan your event and to rethink your event through a virtual lens. Once you have your agenda and the activities, a great idea is to visualise how you see the event playing out. Run through the agenda and activities with a colleague – test them out – do they work in a virtual sense? Do they deliver what they are designed to achieve?
-You will also need to communicate more than usual. For many people, teaming events can be uncomfortable under normal circumstances, coupled with the fact that you are doing this in a different way which represents change. Think through how you communicate this event, how you engage your participants before, during and after the event. You may even need to apply some of the principles of change communication given that we are not only asking people to do something they may not be comfortable with, but they may also be resistant towards as well.
Apply the Formula: 2 Days F2F = 2 Months PTT
-As mentioned above, we don’t expect that a virtual activity will deliver the depth of connection that a day or two in person will. But it can if you reframe it and apply the following formula:
1 day F2F = 1 months PTT (Planned Teaming Touchpoints).
For every day you would spend in a face to face teaming event, plan one month of team touch points beyond your virtual teaming activity. Design them so they link back to the initial teaming event, and so they build on from each other.
I hope this has been a useful piece of guidance for those who are designing or facilitating virtual teaming events for the first time. I will also leave you with a personal mantra of my own that I find very useful in these circumstances:
- Be realistic about what you hope to achieve.
- Be optimistic that you can achieve more than what you realistically think you will achieve.
- Be disciplined in keeping your commitments to yourself and to others.