Hi! And welcome to the channel designed specifically for leaders and educators. In this video, we’re going to unpack “How do you keep virtual teams connected?” I’m Chad and this is what I get to do on the planet. I exist to make connection and engagement easy both online and off  and I get to work and have worked with some of the top universities and organizations on the planet.

In this video, I’m going to share  3 particular strategies. There are many ways to keep a virtual team connected. But I’m going to share 3 strategies which I think you’ll really appreciate, number 1. And number 2, you’ll be able to immediately apply the moment this video is done in your next team meeting to start building that connection. Let’s get into it.  

First of all, we have to pull up this quote. “Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a  washing machine.”  I love that because in  order to keep your virtual teams connected, it’s quite likely that you have to do something that’s outside of the normal.I’m going to share 3 strategies that may not be a part of your current norm or routine. Because your teams and meetings probably have norms and cultures established, here’s a quick tip on how to roll out  some of these strategies that I’m going to share if you already have a team that is kind of set in a particular way. In fact, and this tip is inspired by Bruce. Somebody who commented on a  previous video and we can put that screenshot up here and you can pause it if you want to read it. But he basically was asking, “Hey, I’m at the end of a series of team meetings, how do I implement some of this stuff that you’re sharing? We’ve already kind of gotten to a routine essentially.” My tip was you got to point out the elephant in the room.

If there’s a current team dynamic where efficiency is taking place of connection.  Meaning, you jump on your virtual meeting, you click the zoom link and you dive right into the agenda and you just go for it. That may be impeding connection and preventing your virtual teams from being connected. The first thing you’ve got to do is point out that dynamic and then maybe scroll back and read my full answer on the comment if you’re curious to dive a little bit deeper into that. But point out the elephant in the room and ask for some feedback, ask for the group’s help in shifting that. That out of the way pointing out the elephant in the room. 

Connect Before Content

Tip number 1 is connect before content. Now, I share this in many of my other videos. But in this video, I’m going to give you a unique and particular lens for how to connect before content. And it’s a year-long plan to create connection in your virtual teams. It only takes about a few minutes to actually prepare. You can connect your team over the course of the  entire year in a few minutes by just planning out connection before content very simply using… Where are they? Using We! Connect Cards. Now, sure this is a deck that we make and is available in links below, on amazon, or our website. But I also think information should be free, good questions shouldn’t be held in a vault. In the link below, weand.me/free. You can also access a whole bunch of the questions from the deck for free, digitally. The tip is if you’ve got a weekly meeting or if not, plan a weekly quick connect call. It could just be a stand-up check-in. Even virtually, you can make a stand-up meeting. I know that lots of companies and organizations that I work with have actual literal stand-up meetings. But you can also do a stand-up meeting virtually. And that actually can be a really useful way to shift people’s state in a virtual meeting. Very simply, you pick one question per week to answer as a group and you build this as a norm. You just roll out to the team to say, “Hey, we’re distributed all over the place. We lose all of the organic connection that we would  normally have when we are working together in person. So we’re going to be intentional about creating that connection by just answering one question per week as a team.” That’s it. It’s a relatively small ask. If you’re asking, if you’re watching this video wanting to connect virtual teams, it’s actually a really relatively small ask. It’s like if you want to get healthy over the course of the year, just go to the gym once a week for 10 minutes. That’s essentially what this idea is. Yet, all of those conversations and connections will create and weave a thread of interpersonal knowledge of each other, who we are, likes, dislikes, preferences, opinion, styles that will create communication shortcuts in the organization. 

There’s a number of benefits outside of just the team connecting. Productivity always increases to a certain point, right? I would actually say that team can be too connected. It”s like a bell curve. As you’re connecting, you can have too much connection and not enough focus on whatever the effort or impact you’re trying to create is. And that starts a downturn in productivity. Being mindful. I find that that question per week really intentional connection time the whole group understands the intention because you’ve stated it as the leader really clearly to them. Why you’re doing this. That is enough to kind of help weave that thread through. Connect before content. There’s 60 questions in the deck. So, you have a year  and 8 weeks worth of material just right in this deck. I will say, I’ll throw in a little bonus, this is not the point. The New York Times put out an article titled the 36 questions that lead to love.

Based on the study. If you go through these questions, the idea, the premise was you fall in  love with somebody else. Now, we specifically designed these 60 questions to accelerate and build relationships of trust. While they’re questions that you may not typically have work conversations with people with, they are all appropriate for work conversations because everyone gets full 100% autonomy and choice in how they answer that question. Now that said, I do have a friend that took a deck of We! Connect Cards on a date, on a first date with his then… Well, I guess not even then girlfriend. Just on a first date, they actually went through  the entire deck on the first date which is a very intense first date. And just recently, they asked me to officiate their wedding because they’re getting married. And they were wondering if I could lead a question swap with the cards at the wedding. The point is to uh not maybe to have all your co-workers fall in love with each other and that…I have not heard of that happening in a weekly in a work context. The context was  very different. But I thought that was a story that was sort of fun and worth sharing.

Unofficial End

Second strategy is going to be the unofficial end. Now, like I mentioned, I really like reading and responding to YouTube comments. It’s the reason that I’m so uninterested in creating like a show of some sort and way more interested in creating these videos where we can actually be in dialogue, in conversation with each other. If we put up Rebecca’s comment here, she asked a really wonderful question which was, “Can you tell me more about the unofficial end?” You know, I’ve mentioned in several previous videos, this concept of the unofficial start.” I’ve just informally started using the phrase unofficial end. But I haven’t really defined it. Let me take a minute here and offer some loose guidelines around the purpose of an unofficial end. This is the idea that typically we have meetings that go from 9am to 10am, let’s say. We meet right up until that moment and we cut it off and then we shift gears and pee really quick and run off to our next virtual meeting. The unofficial end says let’s actually be a little bit more responsible and intentional with the way that we block our time as a team and perhaps culturally build in space. You can set the default settings on google calendar or outlook or anything else. By default when you create a meeting to create a meeting for only 50 minutes. If you make that meeting, 50 minutes, make that the official end time. And the good news is that (Parkinson’s law) the amount of time that you give something is the amount of time that it will take.  

If you give a meeting 50 minutes, it will take 50 minutes. If you make the official  end at that time, you can then culturally build in the understanding that there’s an unofficial end for 10 minutes after. And that is the idea that the Zoom link or the Webex link or whatever link   stays live for another 10 minutes. Any conversation… People… Most people may jump off the meeting. But some people may stay on have some quick conversation, have to reconnect over things. Now, the beauty of this is you can maybe finish up some last-minute work conversations that didn’t get talked about in the meeting. But even more useful than that is if you have that 10 minutes blocked off, you can also be intentional about it. At the beginning of the meeting you can say, “Hey, we’re going to use our unofficial end today to just highlight and appreciate Samantha whose birthday it is today”, right? Then you can go around the room and all offer an affirmation or an  appreciation for Samantha. Do you see how creating that unofficial end kind of makes it a thing. It makes somehow it makes connection okay when you build in and you call it something. You have space built in 10 minutes after. Now, I said create 50-minute meetings or 20-minute, 25-minute meetings and then use that last few minutes. But this can go also just beyond the scheduled time.

You can say hey block the next half hour of your call because after our focus work meeting, we’re going to have an unofficial end. Anything that goes beyond the official end time of your meeting and is designed to help people connect and communicate and engage with each other more effectively. By doing this, you are essentially saying, “Yes, we appreciate efficiency and we also appreciate connection.” We’re going to make time for both. If you take a connection before content an unofficial end and  you have even one of those weaved into one of your meetings throughout a week, you will be building and keeping your virtual teams connected.

Advance Creative Version Using Zoom

Strategy number 3, this is sort of like uh the advanced creative version. There’s a couple ways to do it. I’ll share the way that uses Zoom. You can also use like a spreadsheet with phone numbers, the team’s phone numbers to do this or if you’re a smaller team, it’s much easier to coordinate without any of those these logistics. But let’s just say for example that you have a team you’re jumping on a call and you’ve got 30 people that you all want to kind of keep connected in some way. Really beautiful way to do that is to get away from the screen. What I would do is set a meeting and title it “Zoom phone meeting” or “zoom phone walk and talk”. Invite people to…Oh, wow! I somehow just butt dialed or called somebody. I think I was just on a spam call with somebody. That’s exciting. They just learned about this creative technique to keep their virtual teams connected.

Very simply, invite people to join that zoom meeting from their phone and then use breakouts. You as the host should be on a computer and spark  breakouts with only 2 to 3 people and give people some prompts, some questions and I would say bigger prompts, bigger questions not like… You know, what was the highlight from your week. Think about like what is life teaching you right now, what are you struggling with, what are you hoping happens for you in the next 6 months. Like some bigger question. Then, invite the team to plug in headphones or just walk out the door wherever they are and go on a walk and talk and have that conversation. You as the host or the leader in the meeting on Zoom have the ability to just bring people back to the main session, do a little debrief, randomize those breakouts and then send people back into conversations. You could set an uh a half-hour meeting where people walk and obviously, you know, weather dependent knees and back health dependent. That may not work. Giving people options of like, “Hey, if you want to just take a break, screen time break and like lay on the couch and have these conversations, fine.” But there is some magic in actually moving and walking and talking.

Connection before content with one question a week. Unofficial end by blocking off 5 to 15 to 10 to 30 minutes after your meeting to make space for intentional connection. And number 3, taking zoom meetings on a walk. I hope that these three meeting sessions were really useful. If you’ve got other strategies on how to keep virtual teams connected, like I mentioned throughout this video,I love responding to comments.

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