7 Ideas for Continuous Virtual Team Building

7 ideas for continuous virtual team building

We all have become more familiar with the virtual world over the years, whether we have wanted to or not. Team building can be difficult when you are not face to face so here are seven ideas to promote team building through a screen.

    1. Leverage technology

    If your company has embraced remote work, your teams likely have already been videoconferencing. This is essential for enabling colleagues to see each other face to face.Videoconferencing certainly isn’t the only technology you can harness to reduce the perception of distance between people. Also consider using:

    • Technology platforms (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams) through which people can post messages, chat and share pictures, for example
    • Social media (e.g., private Facebook chat groups or similar)
    • IM

    These additional options promote more frequent, direct communication between individuals, and can help to recreate some of the spontaneous or more relaxed conversations that people would have in the office.

    1. Schedule regular virtual meetings

    It’s one thing to videoconference at all, and it’s another thing to commit to doing it regularly. If you want your teams to feel a real sense of camaraderie and familiarity, scheduling meetings at least once per week is optimal. This includes both:

    • Team meetings
    • One-on-one meetings with direct reports

    Allow time in each meeting for small talk and personal discussion, during which employees can talk about what’s going on with them either at work – including how they may need support – or outside work.

    1. Take personal quizzes and share the results

    An essential component of teamwork training is understanding where other people are coming from, and how that impacts their working and communication styles.

    Why not have your team take a personality quiz, such as the popular DISC assessment, and share their results with each other over a video call? This has the benefit of:

    • Increasing self-awareness
    • Educating colleagues about each other
    • Enhancing empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ)
    • Decreasing the potential for conflict
    1. Host virtual events

    Who says you can’t throw events in a virtual environment? If you videoconference for work, you can also videoconference to socialize and strengthen relationships among colleagues.

    Invite your team to gather virtually for lunch or happy hour – whatever is appropriate for their time zone.

    During these events, you could ask employees to share a few photos of their favorite memories or major life events over the past year to discuss with the group. Or, you can play some fun games (more details coming up next). Have a bigger budget to play with? Try coffee or chocolate tasting sessions.

    1. Play games

    The possibilities here are endless, but the goal is the same: To have fun and share a laugh and friendly competition with colleagues while learning about each other.

    Game ideas:

    • Online bingo
    • Online escape rooms
    • Getting to know each other games, for example:
      • “This or That,” during which employees answer a series of questions about their personal preferences and can talk a bit more about themselves, such as:
        • Beach or lake?
        • Coffee or tea?
        • Movie/TV shows or books?
      • Kahoot, which is an app in which game administrators can pick a few categories (ex., favorite vacation destination or pets’ names), employees create their own questions and answers, and their colleagues have to guess the correct answers
    1. Establish virtual mentor-mentee pairings or virtual work buddies

    Mentorship programs can exist in virtual spaces, too. Similarly to how entire teams and managers and direct reports meet regularly, mentors and mentees should also videoconference on a regular basis to check in and give mentees an opportunity to ask questions or obtain coaching.

    If a remote employee is new to the organization or has recently changed roles or teams, it can also be helpful for their manager to assign them to a workplace buddy. This person can help to facilitate their transition, answer questions and just serve as a familiar face.

    1. Move employee resource, or affinity, groups online

    Employee resource groups and employee affinity groups can be a great opportunity for remote employees to get involved with an organization and establish connections with people who share their life circumstances, interests or hobbies.

    For example, employees who are former veterans or who are interested in supporting veterans in the workplace could videoconference regularly to discuss those issues and share ideas.

    Or, employees who enjoy reading or movies could form virtual book and movie clubs. Similarly, employees who are interested in fitness and personal wellbeing could create virtual groups focused on those topics – and even create virtual challenges.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” 
– Michael Jordan

Did you know this about disc?

DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication

How to Cultivate Leadership Presence Remotely

With the intensity of working online, it is particularly important to find ways of consciously managing your attention. Here are some things to try (whether on Zoom or in person) so that you stay energized as well as engage your co-workers.

1. Before a meeting

Take a few moments to become present. Find a quiet space where you can close your eyes and notice what you’re feeling. Put away your phone (unless you need it to be logged onto a meeting or for a call.) Keep it out of sight so that you’re less likely to swivel your attention in its direction. The people you’re with will feel more valued if they’re not competing for your attention.

2. During a meeting

Notice yourself breathing in and out. Maintain eye contact when another person is speaking. If you’re not able to give other people your full attention, say so. It is better to say, “I know you need to talk with me and I’m interested, but I want to give you my undivided attention” than to be in a semi-distracted state. Take care of what you need to and then return to
the conversation.

3. After a meeting

Carve out whatever space you can between meetings rather than rushing from one to the next. Even a short break of a few minutes helps to clear your mind and reduce “attention residue” (continuing to think about one issue when you need to pivot to the next). If it’s possible to stand outside or open a window, even for a few seconds, the fresh air will help to keep your attention focused in the here-and-now.

At the end of a meeting, jot down any actions or decisions that were taken so that these don’t remain as ‘open loops’ in your mind. Close your ‘loops’ from one meeting before you head to or log into the next.

In closing

Our presence is what creates the most impact when someone walks into the room, whether in person or on Zoom. Great leaders have it and you can too. Presence is available to us each moment. Cultivating presence will greatly enhance the quality of your leadership and life.

Source: Allan Watkinson, Rohit Kar and Jennifer Robinson via Gallup

Refreshing your Work from Home Routine

Judy Rathwell Judy Rathwell, Project Director-Aha! Leadership

I am a morning person and enjoy quick news soundbites, such as ‘The Skimm’ daily email.  This appeared in a ‘Skimmed from the Couch’ January issue, and worth a repeat.  As many continue to navigate WFH from novelty to the status quo, here are  9 tips and tricks that may help you create new habits or reboot old ones.

1) Setting Up

For when you miss your morning commute…Fake it till you make it (again). Commuting into the office can help create a work-life boundary and prep you for the day ahead. The bedroom to living room commute? Not so much. So take a conmute, or con yourself into thinking you’re commuting. This can mean walking around the block listening to a podcast or a pump-up playlist.

2) For when you’ve gotten tired of your home “office”…

Find a new home. If you can, set up in the room with the most natural light or multiple light sources. This helps ward off eye strain from blue light. It’ll help you sleep better too, since you’ll be living in sync with your circadian rhythm (aka natural sleep-wake cycle).

3) For when you feel overwhelmed…

Lists, but make them exciting. Instead of a standard to-do list, make a D-List, divided into three sections: “Doing,” “Dealing,” and “Dreaming.” In the Doing section, write down the 1-3 work tasks that must get done that week. In the Dealing section, write down personal, household, or other tasks that should get done. And in the Dreaming section, write down something exciting or inspiring you’d like to dig into. This can be an article you’ve been meaning to read, a piece of art you want to look at more closely, or a (socially distanced) trip you want to plan.

4) Getting After It      

For when your calendar is booking up…

Block it off. If your work requires deep focus, you won’t be able to get that done with back-to-back Zoom meetings. Grab a few 1-3 hour blocks on your calendar every week and mark them off for deep focus work. Some people say that they do this work better in the AM, others prefer afternoon. Try both and see which works for you.

5) For when you zone out of virtual meetings (or virtually every meeting)…

Close. Those. Tabs. It’s tempting to buy that shirt with “only one left in your size” mid-meeting, but this will end up wasting your time and everyone else’s. Grab a notebook (how vintage) and take notes by hand to resist the pull of the Interwebs.

6) For when you’re feeling Zoom fatigue…

Try and pad your meetings with a 5-10 minute break in between to give your eyes and brain a rest. And opt to use a good ole audio call instead of Zoom when you can. It gives your eyes a break and lets you focus solely on listening, instead of how you look on video. We get it: The (eye) struggle is real.

7) For when you keep getting distracted…

Break up with your distractions. If you keep opening new, shiny tabs (hint: researching anti-aging serums or pulling up menus from restaurants you miss), you might need to try an Internet blocker app like Freedom. If your distractions come from your SO or family, make it clear that you need dedicated space. Say something concrete like, “Can we block off 20 minutes together at 4pm to talk about this?” Then put it on your calendar. This might feel like you’re running your personal life like a business, but structure can help manage most aspects of life.

9) For when you need a break…

Take one. Take many. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many breaks you should take per day, but Skimm HQ is partial to the post-lunch walk. Some HQ’rs also like the Pomodoro technique: 25-minute work intervals, each followed by a 5-minute break. After four 25-minute work blocks, take a longer 15-20 minute break. This helps create a sense of urgency while avoiding burnout.

10) Logging Off

For when your 9 to 5 becomes 9 to 7 or 8 or 9…

Log off at the same time every day. This might seem unrealistic, but try it for a week. Since your D-List runs on a weekly cadence, you can tackle what’s leftover the next day. Saying “bye” to the remote office at the same time every day creates a renewed sense of separation so that work doesn’t permeate every aspect of your life.

11) For when you’re answering emails in bed…

Keep bed a sacred space. No computers or phones allowed. This creates another barrier between work and life. Bonus: It’s more beneficial for sleep and mental health.

WFH can feel like a lawless land. Congrats, you’re now the mayor. Set the rules, create the habits, and productivity will have a better shot at falling in line.

Source: the Skimm, January 1, 2021

3 Reasons to Invest in Online Leadership Training

While the pandemic has created many unknowns, there is one thing we know for sure: businesses and organizations will face more disruptive changes in the next year than they have in the past 20. The way we lead cannot stay the same as the environment around us changes.

Leadership development and training and are essential for organizations to stay competitive and thrive. With travel and group restrictions, training programs have been halted, leaving HR leaders to deal with the fallout from pay cuts, furloughs, and eliminations. As we learn how to change and recover from the pandemic crisis, organizations are rethinking their development strategies and turning towards an online platform.

Companies waiting for the return of in-person leadership training risk falling behind companies that continue to grow their skills using other methods. In fact, market research from the Center for Creative Leadership report that 82% of organizations feel investing in leadership training gives them an advantage over competitors.

While online learning is not new, this method of developmental delivery has skyrocketed in popularity. But not everyone’s on board. Organizations without previous experience with online training may remain skeptical of the advantages of online learning. Others may have had a subpar experience with online deliveries in the past and prefer face-to-face training as a result.  However, organizations cannot afford to wait for in-person development programs to resume. Online learning is here to stay, and these programs can create similar engagement and results as in-person programs.

There are many advantages to online leadership development.

  1. According to market research from the Center for Creative Leadership, satisfaction with virtual leadership development equals that of face-to-face training.  At Aha! Leadership, we have found our online classes have similar scores as in-person workshops as well.
  2. We’ve also seen similar positive results for learning objectives and achievements.
  3. Both formats deliver an engaging experience and include the same effective elements as our in-person training, with breakout rooms, polling, quality videos, etc. 
  4. In addition to the high impact of online training, virtual leadership development programs are easily scalable to be delivered to a number of leaders.
  5. Virtual training programs are also convenient for organizations and leaders, allowing them to participate from anywhere in the world without additional travel expenses.

Online leadership development joins the remote workplace in growing with the current times and challenges. At Aha! Leadership, we seek to help you navigate these times with effective and impactful training that generates the results your organization is looking for!

Reference from the Center for Creative Leadership

5 Reasons Why Teleconferencing is Draining Your Energy & What to Do About It

For a lot of us, the current situation we are in means we are spending a lot of time working from home and in video meetings. But why do virtual meetings seem more tiring than in person ones?

  1. We miss out on non-verbal communication. We pay attention to the facial expressions, gestures, and tone of others and respond accordingly. During in-person meetings, this processing is automatic. However, video chat requires we devote significant energy and attention to pick up on non-verbal cues.
  2. What’s going on in the background? We feel anxious about our new workspace and how it appears to our colleagues. We worry our kids, partners or parents could walk in at any moment. We also focus more of our attention on the backgrounds of others. The environment where meetings are held is also very important to our processing. We attribute certain meetings to specific rooms and adjust our behavior accordingly.
  3. No more in-passing small talk. In-person, we often meet people on the way to a meeting and have time for small talk and catching up before the meeting starts. On video, it’s all business right from the start.
  4. Watching ourselves is stressful. The heightened focus on facial cues and the ability to see ourselves has proven very stressful. Viewing negative facial expressions can intensify those feelings and emotions in ourselves and others.
  5. Silence is awkward. Silence in real-life meetings is normal and provides rhythm. However, over video, we don’t know if the other person is listening or frozen. Silence makes us anxious about technology and lagging connections.

So, how can we reduce fatigue?

Experts suggest limiting video calls to only the essentials. Additionally, turning your camera off or your screen to the side can make the call less tiring.

Restructuring meetings may also be helpful. Try introducing a shared document in addition to the video call. Make time at the beginning of the meeting for small talk and catch-ups. Check-in on the well-being of others.

Lastly, building in transition periods can help us adjust. Try stretching or doing some exercise before a video meeting. We need buffers to allow our minds to transition our focus from one thing to the next.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” -Wayne D. Dyer

12 Tips for Effective Emails

Email is a communication currency that can lose its value very quickly if not used appropriately.

We “hear” what is being said through our senses, so when we can’t see verbal cues or hear someone speak, there is a greater chance for miscommunication.  Working from home as a ‘new normal’ for many makes our email communication clarity even more critical.

To ensure your email communications are clear, we outlined the following: 

  1. Include a clear, direct subject line.   Examples include:   “New Meeting Date,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line, so ensure yours is clear what it contains.
  2. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’ Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.  IF you do copy everyone, write why you are doing so – outline why the person (s) were included. 
  3. Include your auto signature. This allows your email recipient to easily contact you, in case they want to call you in reply.
  4. Use professional salutations“Hey you guys,” “Yo,” etc .  While the email may have a relaxed tone, you should still address an email professionally.
  5. Use exclamation points sparingly.  If you choose to use an exclamation point, we recommend using one to convey excitement.  If overused, you can appear too emotional/immature.
  6. Be cautious with humor.  This is one where it can get lost in translation without the right audio tone and/or facial expression.  This is best left for in-person or videoconferences.
  7. Factor in different cultures speak and write differently.  Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.
  8. Reply to your emails.  This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. Or if you were “copied” on it, you should let them know that you are intending Cathy to respond if directed to Cathy and Cathy is better equipped to handle.    Example:  “Cathy, I will assume you will reply to Joe on this issue.”
  9. Proofread every message.  Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.  Grammarly is a free tool that helps with grammar beyond email spellchecks.
  10. Add the email address last.  It is easy to hit “send” by mistake before finishing your message.  This will save a lot of headaches as you compose and proofread your message first.
  11. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.  Pay extra attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line especially since it may autofill similar names.
  12. Nothing is confidential—so compose your emails accordingly.  Every electronic message leaves a trail.