Great lyrics. Inspiration for a Learning and Development Roundtable on virtual teambuilding. And a wonderful way to get us in the mood with a quick dance part.
With the scene set, let’s dive into my recent Learning and Development Roundtable on “Virtual team work in the time of COVID – Turning you and your team right side up again.”
How comfortable are you with working in virtual teams?
It’s a question not many of us thought we’d be asking ourselves a mere few months ago. But here we are. With all the combined bumps and opportunities.
In a world that’s constantly changing, the way to survive is to connect, to bridge, to belong, to be human. Lee-Anne Ragan
Here’s a roadmap to the critical issues when working in virtual teams:
- Cons and red flags
- Virtual Team Tips
- The 7 C’s
In this post I’ll cover the first three issues and I’ll write about the next three in upcoming posts.
I would bet my beloved chock-a-block full bookshelf that you’ve been to a meet where your sense of what was going to happen wasn’t a match with what actually happened. That’s a case of mismatched goals.
Here’s an example. Not the wild mismatch and recipe for at the least confusion, at the most, conflict.
You: ‘I’m expecting a meeting to review where we’re at with Q1 targets and results.’
Colleague: ‘I’m looking forward to catching up and having some social time with my colleagues.’
Team lead: ‘I’m anticipating everyone’s project updates.’
When working in virtual teams it’s more important than ever to make sure that the goals of the meeting are crystal clear and communicated to everyone beforehand. Can I get an amen and a vigorous nodding of the head in agreement?
Here are some examples of team meeting goals:
- Training: virtual team meetings are a great opportunity to brush up on learning
- The ‘classic:’ updates, sharing information
- Virtual water cooler: informal time for chatting, peer support
- heard, seen, relief: dealing with issues, potential conflicts (this is a more formal version of the virtual water cooler)
- Virtual co-working: people work on their own projects, as they would in person at adjacent desks, and ask questions, make comments as necessary
- Teambuilding: ‘nuf said
Caution: just as with an in-person meeting, it’s important to set boundaries and expectations around privacy and confidentiality. It’s even more important as with people’s stress levels, conflict and the need to vent are strong.
Insight and learning: just like in-person meetings, insight, and learning should always be the aim.
We’re at a unique time in history. Never have so many people been working from home using online technologies. There are lots of benefits to this strange situation we find ourselves in (and if you’re run ragged trying to teach your kids at home, pining for social contact, doubled over with worry about your safety and others, hang in there for the next point).
- There can be an increased psychological safety being at home for some people
- The sweet combination of all this change + tech can push us towards innovation
- Working in virtual teams can maximize limited resources
- (with reduced air, car and other travel for example)
- Virtual teams enable us to ‘cast a wide net for expertise’ (HBR Leading Virtual teams) – and work with people we might not be able to otherwise.
- Virtual teams can streamline collaboration
- Some people thrive in a virtual work environment
It’s very likely that you have people on your virtual team that meet at least a few of the considerations above …. annnnd equally likely that you have people on your team that meet those below.
(That’s what makes working with humans so interesting!)
3. Cons and red flags
Just as there are a number of benefits to working with virtual teams, there are some cons and some serious red flags to watch out for. Here are some examples.
- Unfortunately, it can be unsafe being at home (for example due to domestic violence) and COVID is only making a bad situation worse
- The context can be extremely stressful, for example, the isolation, living alone, or with young children and/or with pre-existing mental health issues
- Some people don’t thrive in a virtual work environment
- Timezone issues can make it difficult to get everyone in the same meeting at the same time.
- Accountability can be a struggle – one’s own and others.
- Technology struggles can add to an already stressful time
- Communication issues can be exacerbated for example the relative lack of physical cues we rely on when we’re face to face, in person
- Trust can be challenging to build virtually
- ‘Replicating the small things that knit a team together’ can be tough (HBR Leading Virtual teams)
We are more than our strung out (literally and figuratively) individual selves. While COVID has brought us to our knees, there exist opportunities that we only could have dreamed of before.
When working with your virtual teams, to help you and them, make sure you’re all on the same page, heading towards the same goal while acknowledging both the benefits and challenges to working virtually.
Next week I’ll write about two more strategies to help you with your virtual teams: the M.A.P. tool and the 7 C’s. And the week after I’ll finish with Virtual team tips.
Until then Stay well. Stay safe. Stay creative.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Building Trust in Diverse Teams: The toolkit for emergency response; download for free here
- Harvard Business Review Leading Virtual Teams, 20-minute manager
- Harvard Business Review Running Virtual Meetings, 20–minute manager
- Seven tips for holding those online meetings you’re dreading
- Five simple ways to make your Zoom online meetings more interactive
P.S. Want to receive invitations to my monthly, free, online Learning and Development Roundtable like the one this post was based on, Virtual teamwork in the time of COVID – Turning you and your team right side up again? Easy peasy. Sign up here.