Maintaining a close-knit team remotely

Photo Chris Montgomery, Unsplash

Fantastic communication is vital for your workplace team. It’s the glue that holds everyone together and the lube that makes everything work. With the impacts of technology and changes to the way we work since the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to master communication and maintain a close-knit team.

While days may seem filled with endless meetings – whether in person or online – more and more people are saying they feel disconnected or out of the loop.

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy states that the biggest epidemic of the 21st century is a loneliness epidemic. Even when people are working alongside one another, the research shows that people feel increasingly lonely or disconnected. There is a huge need to create opportunities to stimulate deeper conversations. When you do so, you’ll boost people’s wellbeing and foster a strong, connected and engaged team.

Staying connected

Connection meetings are non-work focused meetings that don’t discuss work in progress, KPIs or actionable outcomes.

Now before you switch off – hear me out.

We know that when teams that are highly connected and have a high level of trust, they have less conflict, higher morale and improved engagement, all of which leads to lower staff turnover and higher productivity.

Let’s look at connection meetings, how to host one and how they differ from other meetings.

Connection meetings are non-work focused meetings that don’t discuss work in progress, KPIs or actionable outcomes. Photograph Andrew Neel on Unsplash

What is a connection meeting?

These are meetings designed to ensure staff stay connected as a team. They’re structured to get people to connect at a deeper level than typical water cooler chats.

Leadership expert Simon Sinek has operated with a virtual team for years and he holds these meetings which he call ‘huddles’ as a powerful way to create an opportunities for growth, learning and to build understanding of one another.

You can include education or inspiration into these meetings as well as a chance for everyone to contribute.

Running a fantastic ‘connection meeting’

Connection meetings can be done equally well in person as online, or a combination of both.

To be successful you need to make these meetings a priority and create a high-trust environment where people can share how they’re really doing. Ensure that your leadership team are fully supportive and setting the example and encouraging all staff to take part.

By sharing out meeting roles among the team it adds variety and boosts engagement, giving people more purpose as an integral part of the meeting.

Your step-by-step guide to a phenomenal connection meeting:

  1. Set the scene and create energy – have one person start the session with an activity such as an active game, waiata (song) or some sort of brain gym exercise get to everyone energised or a joke of the day to stimulate laughter.
  2. Get present – have a second person lead everyone through a breathing technique, or mindfulness practise for 1-2 minutes to ensure everyone is present and focused.
  3. Share positives – open the floor for anyone to share ‘high fives’, providing specific praise to someone else in the team. People always do more of what they are praised for, so this simple practise of highlighting the positives and providing recognition will have a dramatic effect on your team performance, and will strengthen relationships.
  4. Contribute – Have another person facilitate, asking each team member to share on a specific topic (e.g. what’s been the highlight of your week? What were your highs/lows this week? What have you read lately that inspired you? What’s one thing you know that you wish others knew? What’s one thing some people here don’t know about you?) Pick a question of the day wisely and watch what unfolds. Have a timer with a pre-arranged signal to indicate when each person’s time is up (e.g. 1 or 2 minutes).
  5. Check in – once everyone’s had a turn to speak, invite everyone to share one word to describe how they’re feeling now and one thing they’re looking forward to today (this can be typed into the chat in virtual meetings) or if time allows you could go around verbally again and invite people to elaborate.
  6. Close on a positive – have a different person wrap up with an inspirational quote, a joke or a story to end on a positive note.
  7. Finish on a high – finish by taking a deep breath in and all stretching your arms up into a wide V or adopting a ‘power pose’ (see Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk for details.) Body posture directly affects how you feel so this will help everyone end the session on a high.

To initiate these connection meetings, pick two or three colleagues who you know will be supportive of the idea and great at getting others on board. Discuss how you will tweak and adapt the process above to suit your organisational culture.

Plan the timeframes you’ll stick to and be sure to assign a timer and explain how they will display the ‘times up’ signal. Discuss how you will set the scene and establish ground rules. Brainstorm a great opening activity, question of the day and closing message.

Launch the idea explaining the benefits and creating a safe and positive environment where people are encouraged to share honestly. At the close of the first meeting nominate people to take on the roles of leading the next one and continue this process moving forward, creating a regular rhythm of connection meetings at intervals to suit your team.

Be a change maker in your organisation

Building a strong team dynamic and positive culture that eradicates bullying and toxic relationships takes time and effort, authentic leadership and a focus on connection.

Imagine the difference to your workplace culture of eliminating bullying, conflict and toxic relationships, by building connection and understanding, to prevent those negative behaviours. You can make a difference by fostering a close-knit team dynamic where everyone can perform at their best.

Get your complimentary copy of Lauren Parsons ebook 5 Keys to a Positive, Energised, High-Performance Culture here.

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