As the pandemic continues, the same two questions continue to bubble up from both our clients and our own team members:
How are we connecting as a team in a hybrid world?
How do we move from increasingly transactional interactions at work to meaningful connections that ultimately increase engagement, purpose, and team performance?
Team connectivity is critical to ongoing team resilience, which we define as the ability to respond and bounce back to ongoing stressors and changing circumstances.
Connected teams also help organizations to build and deliver and multiple strong teams prevent a single point of failure. After a year and a half of working remotely, it’s no secret that staying connected is hard. It’s not, however, impossible.
To help boost team cohesion, I’ve compiled a few time-tested and researched techniques that drive connectivity.
1. Create space for everyone’s voice.
A Google study, code-named Project Aristotle, examined hundreds of Google’s teams and identified why some struggled and others soared. With the teams that soared, they generally found that as long as everyone on the team had a chance to talk, they did well; however, if only one person or a small group spoke, the collective intelligence declined.
This study also discovered that good teams are generally skilled at intuiting how others feel based on tone, facial expressions, and non-verbal cues. As Zoom meetings prove difficult in reading body language and the lag time in facial expressions, it is no surprise that it is more difficult to feel connected and in tune.
2. Ask meaningful questions.
At your team meetings and 1:1 syncs, ask questions that go beyond the regular pleasantries of “Happy [insert day of the week]”, followed by [“how are you”], followed by [“busy and tired”]. Ask questions that drive authentic connection, that help yourself and others see the world, your projects, and the impact you are making in a different light. Focus on asking “what” and “how” questions instead of “yes or no” or “why” questions to drive open-ended, exploratory conversations.
What’s the most meaningful project you’ve been working on lately? What made it meaningful?
Where have you seen your strengths come into play at work recently?
Where are you feeling blocked? What’s contributing to that?
How are we working together as a group?
3. Be transparent.
Amy Edmonson, author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, found that a critical component to connected teams is psychological safety. In this virtual environment, she found that managers and leaders need to lead by example by openly sharing their challenges with work-life balance.
By volunteering to share first, leaders demonstrate that it’s safe to be honest and genuine. Recently, The Clearing’s CEO, Tara Carcillo, organized a company-wide event around the challenges presented by experiencing grief. She shared her own experiences first, which allowed others to feel comfortable sharing their challenges. Exercises like this help build needed relational interactions that go beyond transactional day-to-day interactions.
4. Create and re-visit a team charter.
Team charters are agreements of how work will get done across the group. They also provide insight into individual preferences and goals. Components of a team charter include, but is not limited to:
Individual and collective strengths
Individual preferences for giving and receiving feedback
Individual professional development goals
Collective process and channels for communication
Individual outside of work commitments and priorities
We recommend that teams revisit their charter once a quarter and use it as a forcing function to have a deeper discussion on how the team is working together and what could work even better to meet individual and project goals.
5. Validate each other’s experiences.
Sometimes the conditions that your team members are working in cannot be fixed immediately or with individual or team behavior changes. Many current challenges are related to wider environmental conditions that we can’t always control or fix at the team level. So, how do we do our best to hold up our umbrella to the circumstances raining around us?
Despite external conditions, to create the conditions for your team members to feel safe and connected, listen deeply to what they are saying without thinking about your own experience or considering your own response. Repeat back what you’ve heard from them and validate their experiences while staying in a place of curiosity rather than judgment.
We’re always looking for ideas on how to better deepen team connectivity and resilience. If you have techniques that have worked for your organization, we’d love to hear about them. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a dialogue.