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How to Create a Powerfully Connected Virtual Team

People often question me how a Team that is spread out over multiple locations can possibly bond in the same way that a Team can who works together every day?

I have this to share with you dear reader – I have worked with both physical and virtual Teams and can report that the current Team we have (all virtual) is more connected and bonded as colleagues and as friends than any physical team we have ever worked with! In fact, we are more than friends – we are family.

So, how did we pull that off? I will share with you what I think are the key elements…

Use Zoom to Meet Regularly

Zoom is the best tool ever for Team meetings – we use it frequently. And – this is critically important – you must use your video with Zoom. Seeing someone’s expressions is vital for engagement.

Zoom is such a great tool for connecting for a few reasons:

  1. You see the person’s face right in front of you – you are looking right at each other;
  2. You can each share your screen for training and demonstrations. This is significantly more efficient than looking over someone’s shoulder at their desk;
  3. It is instantly available, wherever someone is working.

Here are some important pointers in using Zoom:

  1. Get a good headset or earbuds so you can use the computer audio (many older laptops/computers do not have a microphone, which means you will have to call into Zoom rather than use your computer audio);
  2. Get a good camera if you don’t have one built in. Seeing someone is important and makes the meeting the next best thing to face-to-face, even better;
  3. Put a timer on your Team meetings – first, establish your agenda; next, tell your Team member or client you have 10 minutes (or whatever you need) for the Zoom meeting. Finally, set the timer on your phone to keep the meeting focussed.

We use Zoom regularly – as a Team – throughout the day to discuss issues, solve problems, plan, teach, and demonstrate.

We also use Zoom to do an end of week check-out with the entire Team, usually Friday morning at 9am for 30 minutes. We use this checkout to mostly chit-chat, rather than less work talk. We talk about how our week was, what we need to let go of, how our families are doing…you get the idea.

Again, the power of Zoom is that you can see everyone’s face in front of you on your computer screen.

Use Messaging Groups

We use WhatsApp as a messaging application for a few reasons:

  1. It is encrypted end-to-end;
  2. You can see when someone has received and read your message. Also, you can see when they are typing back to you;
  3. You can create groups. This is awesome when you may need to add a client or team member. We have many, many groups as we set them up in different configurations for each client.

For example, we may have 3 Team members working on one client plus 1-2 Team members from the client that we have added. It is super efficient to send a quick message that everyone can see.

Meet as a Team for Retreats

Last weekend we met as a Team on Salt Spring Island with all of our Team, their spouses and their kids! It was an extraordinary time of fun, cooking and eating together and getting to know one another even better.

What was funny is that some of us – because of the power of Zoom – hadn’t actually met in person and yet thought we had. We had to think about whether we met or not! That is how powerful a tool Zoom is.

The only tears shed were at the parting on Sunday by some of the kids (who surprisingly all got along with each other). They left asking when the next Team gathering is!

The key element was that we snacked (with wine) on Friday night, went to a “sip and savour” on Saturday afternoon, cooked dinner together Saturday evening, and cooked a tasty waffle breakfast on Sunday morning.

All that cooking and eating together brought us even closer as a Team.

My coaching is to do Team Retreats with no agenda – zero, no training, no talks, just breaking bread together and sharing.

Encourage Pairing of Workers

Some of our Team members are friends outside work and now regularly meet on weekends to hang out and work a bit even.

We bonded on Zoom calls and hit it off as friends, and once meeting developed a lifelong friendship.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was possible for strong bonds like this to emerge on a virtual team

My recommendation is to allow it to happen – let strong working bonds develop between various pairs/groups on the Team as it will be like a glue to make the entire Team stronger.

Be Kind All the Time

On a virtual team it is even more important to be kind all the time. Even under stress, we never, ever lose the kindness with which we speak to each other. The words we use and the emoticons in messaging are always kind, upbeat and funny.

The speaking I refer to includes emails, messaging and on Zoom. You must – in a virtual Team – maintain the positive words and tone at all times and in all mediums.

Of course, that is just as important as in a physical Team, yet you have some opportunities to see the person face-to-face so an abrupt message could be counter-balanced by a friendly face in the coffee room.

That said, I would encourage you dear reader to keep ALL communication with your Team upbeat, friendly, kind, and caring (even, and especially, when you don’t want to).

Remember, how you do one thing is how you do everything, so this kindness will spill over to your clients, and to your family!

Thanks for reading…