The water cooler. Lunch breaks. The office plants you helped take care of with your office mate. All of the casual, human connections we had in our lives are missing with working remotely. Most days are full of zoom meetings, slack conversations about work, and falling asleep to the sound of our email still ringing from our bosses. What if it didn’t have to be that way? With the help of virtual leadership, there is a way to create more connections in the workspaces you manage. Creating a work environment with more connection and more humanness allows your team to be more productive, engaged, and communicative.
Now more than ever, it is important to identify leaders in your remote work settings. These new leaders may not present themselves with the standard identifiers. In-office settings, leaders seemed to be chosen by popularity. In remote work, leadership identifiers shift to those who bring people together, are self-reflective, and show they are working hard no matter the task. With the shifting values of leadership in virtual spaces, there is a need to identify why remote work connections are different from in-person connections and make virtual leaders more effective.
“My boss asked us to stand up and stretch in a meeting. He was lucky I decided to put on pants that day.”
That’s a real-life quote taken from one of our friends in a remote work setting. This statement is an excellent acknowledgment that zoom only requires you to be dressed and presentable from the waist up. Additionally, your co-workers and teammates are only seeing facial expressions and not reading body language. Communication is 93% nonverbal and arises from body languages such as vocal tone, fidgeting, body posture, and physical distance, to name a few. Because zoom does not allow us to see the natural expression, we miss many common bonding moments, such as complimenting a co-worker’s outfit or noticing your teammate also hated that presentation you guys sat through. Co-workers can find it hard to navigate how to bond with their teammates remotely because the natural interactions become hard to navigate or are not seen. So how does a virtual leader find a way to create that natural bonding and open communication?
Tips to make your team grow stronger, together virtually
You require all teammates to wear pants…
Nope, that’s not it.
Sooo we spend an hour a week listening to a ted talk together…
Better. But not quite …
Finding the balance between forcing people to come together and letting everyone sit in silence until something happens is hard to navigate virtually. How do you make activities engaging and fulfilling for your team? And even before that, how are you navigating the best fit for the leader positions?
There are many ways we can begin doing virtual team building, but without a leader to take the lead, the team may feel uncomfortable or forced. We suggest finding a leader that the staff naturally trusts and has proven they get things done. This person is great for the role. The CEO should rely on someone in the team that is well respected to bring the group together and create natural bonding moments. Other suggestions are finding people who are honest, trustworthy, and willing to speak their mind. Subsequently, these qualities help bring the team together without a forced feeling and allow the feedback to occur naturally on team building activities.
Activities to explore with your team might be finding a shared task. Each teammate can have a personal choice of what their mission is. An example might be asking the team to watch a TED talk of their choice once a month and then come together as a group to discuss what each person learned. Another example is finding a fun quiz every Friday and discussing answers. It allows the teammates to express themselves and their interests outside of typical work discussion.
We also suggest taking a chance once a month to do a coffee or cocktail hour with the caveat that none of the team can talk about work matters. This virtual gathering has become a highly anticipated night of the month to connect with their co-workers in some remote teams. It allows for conversation to focus on relaxation and relationship building. Without work to speak about, teammates can discover new and relatable information about each other.
And with all of these, there should be even more reliance on your networking and communication platforms. Creating spaces for co-workers to talk “water cooler” or inform others of their day on platforms such as slack or google messenger has seen success in building teams stronger together.
But “What if I don’t have the time? What if we don’t have the resources? What if…”
There are a lot of what-ifs when trying to implement a virtual team building and leadership process. A lot of those what-if’s focus on time, money, or conflict resolution. Although those what-if’s have value, sometimes they are just a roadblock to getting anything started. Each team will be unique, and each team will have to go through some trial and error to find the activities that best compliment the personalities and time restrictions of everyone on the team. Recognizing we are not the perfect machines we sit in front of day in and day out allows us to see our humanness and connect over that as well. In other words, knowing it is ok to fail and give feedback is just another way to keep bonding with the team.
We are better together. Virtually.
Creating virtual leadership processes isn’t rocket science; however, it can be intimidating. Whether you are a CEO that wants to strengthen your team or a teammate that is stepping into a leadership role virtually, it is essential to remember that we are all better together. Through shared experiences, virtual happy hours, and online chat spaces, there is a way to bring us together naturally and with empowerment. Creating these spaces will ultimately increase the productivity of your team because they feel supported. They will be more engaged knowing they have people to chat with, and less afraid to speak their minds because they know humanness is part of the remote work experience. Here at Clearinity, we are working on virtual leadership ourselves. Tune in for more leadership tips, tricks, and more in the near future.