Covid’s not playing ball, so Boris has blown the whistle: No-one’s allowed back to the office (if they can possibly help it).
Our teams will be working at a physical remove for months to come – precisely the reason they need to be tighter than ever.
So how do you keep a remote team together? If you’ve spent the past few months grappling with troublesome tech, flagging morale and shrinking attention spans, you may fear your team will never recover its previous zoom. Well, take heart – because a team isn’t built round a white board and a plate of shared pastries. It’s built on trust.
The virtual workshops we’ve been running at The Culture Experiment prove it: Whether you’re in the same office or time zones apart, it’s still vital to build trust, share purpose and develop effective working practices.
The principles of supercharging a team hold true – it’s just the ‘how’ that’s changed.
6 Team Effectiveness Experiments
Recent meta-analysis (conducted on over 7,700 teams) shows teams who trust each other achieve more goals. So far, so obvious – but how can your team create that sense of ‘safety’ when not spending much time together? (For starters, how can you see how hard you’re all working?!)
CURIOUS QUESTIONS Experiment
Our Hunch Relationships and trust are built through getting to know each other. ‘Self-disclosure’ exercises allow team members to share things about themselves and accelerate the process.
Method Break your team into pairs, then send them a few questions to discuss with each other over a video call. Adjust the questions depending on how well the team know each other:
- If you’re putting together a new team, choose questions to help your people get an initial handle on each other: What’s your home set-up? Secret passion? Where did you last go on holiday?
- Your team already knows each other? Seize the chance to deepen levels of understanding: What achievement were you proudest of at school? What do you consider to be your greatest professional failure? What would be your dream super-power, and why?!
Paired chats completed, bring the whole team together on a video call – ask everyone to take it in turns revealing what they learnt about their partner.
THE ‘REASONS YOU ROCK’ Experiment
Our Hunch We thrive when we feel valued. Celebrating each other’s contributions – and spotlighting what everyone brings individually – will strengthen you as a team.
Method Ask every team member to speak to their fellow team-mates in a series of ‘1 to 1’ calls. The purpose of the call is to share what they value about each other, using specific, tangible examples to illustrate the point.
Bring the team back together on a video call, and ask everyone to share their personal ‘highlights compilation’: Why are they so valued by the rest of the team, and how does that makes them feel?
Room for a ‘bonus’ question? If your team has been working together for a while, you can ask team-mates to proffer each other a ‘build’ – one area they could explore to be even more effective.
An effective team regularly reviews, refines and refreshes its working practices.
REMOTE STYLES Experiment
Our Hunch A team operates best when team-mates understand (and respect) one another’s working patterns. But this natural elasticity can snap under the pressure of remote working: Preferences are exaggerated, seeing introverts hole up/ extroverts suffering the lack of social connection.
Method Ask everyone to reflect on their own working preferences: How might their style of going about things be impacting on their team mates? At your next virtual team meeting, ask everyone to share the one ask they have for the team – and the one thing they’ll give to help team-mates work better with them in turn.
Your team find they struggle to identify their working preferences? Point them towards an MBTI or similar trait test for stimulus.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM…
Our Hunch A successful team is not afraid of productive conflict. Problems are solved, and ideas progressed more effectively when people lean into issues as they arise, and don’t shy away from things ‘getting messy’! Remote working can inhibit people from sharing what’s NOT working well.
Method: Break your team into fresh pairs, and ask them to have a frank share about the issues they believe the team should be addressing right now: What are the elephants in the room?
Elephants safely exercised, each pair can now address a few positives: What’s working well for the team right now? What are the ‘boosters’ in their opinion?
Reassembling the group, ask each pair to share their top 2 or 3 elephants; then move on to their 2 or 3 biggest boosters. As a group, discuss the common themes that have emerged – and decide which elephants you’re going to tackle first!
Nothing yanks the wheels off a team like its members wanting different things/ pulling in separate directions. Devote time to making sure everyone knows and agrees on what success looks like.
PICTURE OF SUCCESS Experiment
Our Hunch Asking individuals to capture + share their take on team success lets you swiftly spot and address areas of difference or disagreement. Getting people to express themselves in unfamiliar ways (such as drawing) gives deeper insight into their thought process.
Method Ask every team member to draw a picture that represents success for the team, and list 3 things the team needs to start doing differently to deliver that success. Ask people to share their pictures + lists in pairs, before sharing back to the team: What ideas did they have in common/ where did they diverge?
THREAT RESPONSE Experiment
Our Hunch The quickest way to strengthen a team is to get it tackling a shared problem. The act of working together builds relationships and a sense of collective purpose. Choose a project that is meaningful but not urgent, and you remove any pressure that might create counter-collaborative behaviour.
Method Schedule a virtual meeting to brainstorm possible responses to a hypothetical business threat. Make it a realistic scenario, and challenge your team to create a range of possible responses.
For more experiments or help supercharging your team, contact us email@example.com