Are you a team leader who manages a virtual and/or remote based team? How can you engage your team members?
Hi, Russell Stratton, Leadership Champion of Bluegem Learning. I work with companies just like yours to help transform average bosses into great leaders. What I wanted to talk to you about today was, how do we build engagement with a virtual team? So what do I mean by a virtual team? Well, often we’re co-located with our team members, either on a job site or in the office, but one of my clients has staff that work not just across Canada, but across the whole of North America and even down into Central America. So how do they build engagement with those people, when the chances of them actually getting together physically in the same room, very rare and probably happens maybe once a year, if lucky, at a sort of company conference.
We brainstormed some ideas. What could we do to build engagement? They occasionally came up with some fairly obvious things to start off with. Well, we make sure that we have Skype calls with people, perhaps that we use email better and make sure that we include everybody in the email loop. Really that’s what people what, isn’t it? Even more emails. They usually came up with the idea, well yes, we can use our shared folders better, the equivalent of the company version of Google Docs, so that people can work in realtime on projects even if they’re in different time zones.
So all these things were good ideas, but they didn’t really light a fire under anybody to say, “Well, this is going to build engagement.” There were, perhaps, slightly more efficient ways of working. So we brainstormed some more, and after the room had been silent for a little while, one of the team members in the management team said, “Well, we really want to recreate the same type of feeling we had when perhaps, when we’re co-located with our team members.” We have those water cooler moments, when people talk about last night’s hockey game or Dancing with the Stars, what happened? Or perhaps people go out to lunch together, or perhaps they go axe throwing or ten pin bowling after work.
So with that in mind, they thought up, what about if we had a games event, where everybody was online at the same time, and they found an online game that they could all play, and they would compete against each other. Perhaps they would break their teams down so that they weren’t having everybody in Calgary’s on one team, everybody in Winnipeg’s on another team, the folks in Detroit are on a different team. What about if they mix the teams up so there were people working across locations?
This is what they did, this is what they sat down to do. The following month, they found a game that they could play online, they got everybody together. There was a little bit of reluctance I think, originally, with people saying, “Oh, what’s this all about?” But they generally said, “Let’s try it and see.” So the idea was everybody at the same time logged on, they’re all on the game at the same time, the teams were broken down not by geographical location, but just they randomly mixed people up. Everybody had gone out in their own individual place and got themselves a soda or a bag of chips, and they sat for about 45 minutes and played this game with the whole team.
End result? People had a great time, they had fun, they had a chance to interact with people who they wouldn’t have otherwise, and came back and said, “We probably got more out of just sort of building our team from that one experiment than we would have done through months of being sent numerous emails.” So based upon this idea, what they’ve now instituted is that every month they’re going to do a different activity, where they’re going to find a time when they can all be online at the same time, and then they’re going to do, whether it’s a quiz night they’ve got coming up, they’ve got one where they’re going to do a horse race night, race night, where they’re going to have a video of a race that took place and everyone’s going to place mock bets.
So these sort of things might be something that you’d like to do, they may not, but the key thing was, it was being creative about activities where people could socialize together, even if they weren’t in the same location. What they’re starting to find is, it’s broken down some of those silos, it’s started to build bridges from people in different countries who’ve never met each other, just by allowing them to have some fun. So let me know what you think about some of those ideas. Feel free to share this content with anybody else. Put some of your thoughts in the context box. I actually come back to everybody who comments and reply personally. And if you like this type of material and would like to see what I could do for your company, then please get in contact at bluegemlearning.com, and we can speak and see what I can do for you.