By the end of this video, you are going to leave with 2 really brilliant methods not from me about how to engage your virtual team. Assuming that that’s why you’re here. The first method actually is stolen and adapted from NASA. You might have heard of them before. More specifically, Chris Hadfield, the astronaut that became famous for playing songs in space and filming cool videos. And even more specifically, this idea comes from his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. And I’m renaming this technique and applying it to virtual team engagement. And we’re going to call it the green card method.

Blog Note: The following is an adapted and edited transcript of one of our daily YouTube tutorials. We know sometimes it is easier to scroll through written content which is why we are publishing here. Because of that, there may be typos or phrases that seem out of context. You’ll definitely be able to get the main idea. To get the full context, visit our YouTube channel hereAnd if you want to watch the video on this topic specifically, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to access it as well. 

The first thing we’re going to talk about is  the green card method. The second thing that we’re going to unpack in this video is also ironically from another Canadian. His name is Jan with a “J”. Jan Kek. And I got this idea from him, really brilliant. And we’re going to call that colorful poles. My name is Chad Littlefield. I have led workshops on how to make virtual  engagement easy for many of the most innovative universities and organizations on the planet. Have worked with remote teams for many, many years. And I’m excited to unpack in depth these 2 strategies so that you can immediately take these ideas and adapt them and apply them in your own virtual team to ramp up engagement. Here we go. You might be noticing (for those of you who are observant) that I’m wearing my milky way galaxy shirt because I’m super excited to share something from space.

The Green Card Method

Something that NASA does in their training with astronauts that we can apply to virtual engagement in teams in a really clever way that can be both fun, engaging, and extremely impactful for your teams. And that is the Green Card method. Here’s the scoop: At NASA, an astronaut’s job is like 99% training and 1% going to space, right? NASA is naturally really good at training astronauts. Every single possible scenario, they’re really good at preparation. And then for 1% of their career, they go up into space. Yeah,  roughly they go up into space. And one of the training techniques that they use that we can apply here is they’ve got what is called green cards. In the middle of a training simulation, green cards are random events that change the game. Let’s say for example that a bunch of astronauts are in the pool with the replica of the international space station at NASA headquarters. And they’re working on a  simulation to dock the Falcon 9 to this particular docking station. The simulation instructor may come over and throw a green card and say, “Hey, there’s a fire in the east bay. You need to go deal with that.” That’s some very non-aeronautical science language for you there. That’s essentially the idea. Random events that  change the name of the game and it is really great technique to prepare people for the unexpected.

Now, the way that I’ve used this in virtual meetings and with virtual teams is to introduce, culturally introduce the idea of a green card. And say that at any point in time, any employee, any leader can throw a green card. A random event that changes the name of the game.  For example, in the middle of a virtual meeting, things are just going along. If  you’re gauging that the energy is a little bit low and you’re wanting to increase engagement, you might just literally find something green. It doesn’t even need to be a green card of any kind. Just find something green, hold it up to your camera nice and close up and get everybody’s attention and say, “Pause. Green card moment”. And that employee, that person, that student whoever it is can introduce something unexpected to change the name of the game.For example, in the middle of a meeting, I might say, “*Boop* Green card.

I’m recognizing that I’m getting a little bit sleepy. I’m assuming some of that is true for some of you. Green card. We’re going to play the Wikipedia game.” If you’re not familiar with the Wikipedia game, you pick 2 random completely disconnected words or concepts. Genghis Khan and the color blue. And you pick those 2 words. You have everybody go to the Genghis Khan’s Wikipedia page and the goal is for the team or for the individual, as quick as possible to get to the Wikipedia page for the color blue without typing anything in. You can only click hyperlinks to get from one place  to the other. Now, that’s a pretty random example.

Other green card examples could be, “Hey, real quick. We need a little energy reset green card. Everybody shut off their video. And for 2 minutes, be on mute for 2 minutes. Stretch and do something physical that raises your heart rate at least 10 beats per minute. Right? Off camera, just do a little physical reset. We know that the brain learns better when there’s more blood flowing through it. The longer a meeting goes, the longer you meet as a team, the more years you’ve worked together virtually as a team; the higher the need to do something to mix up your current cadence of meanings.

Inviting Contribution From Your Team

Going from one brilliant Canadian –Chris  Hadfield to another brilliant Canadian,  Jank Kek. Colorful poles. This idea is so simple but it is so flexible and so brilliant to be used in lots of contexts. When you’re thinking about how to engage a virtual team, one of the most important aspects of engagement (I believe) is inviting contribution from your team, right? If your team is just kind of passively there consuming what’s happening in a meeting or they go from meeting to meeting to meeting without even saying anything, you can expect disengagement, right? And depending on your the size of your team, it’s not always possible to have everybody speak or contribute in a really significant way. One of the ways to build  an engagement is to build in small but meaningful ways for people to share their voice in any given meeting. Colorful polls, really easily uses…

You don’t need these. Uses anything that is  colorful and you get to choose the colors. But the idea is, it’s a way to have people vote. You could say, “If you like chocolate ice cream, hold up the color… Something that is color blue to your camera. And if you like vanilla more than chocolate, hold up something green to your camera.” You’re just attaching meaning 2 colors you’re just picking 2 to 3 colors that mean different things. And you could put these on a slide if you want to and invite people to go find an object that is that color or find an object that are all of those colors so they can participate in like a multi-colorful pole. Switch into gallery view and Zoom or whatever other platform you’re meeting on and go through a series of prompts to just gauge the group’s feedback  or perspective on something. You can use 3 colors that are really simple are traffic light like red, blue… Oh, my goodness. Traffic lights are not  blue. Red, green, and yellow. Using the red green  and yellow specifically is a really great way to make decision-making very visual and quick. You could say, “Hey, we’ve talked about this idea for the last 50 minutes. Okay, just on a  pulse check. Are you green light? You want to move forward. Yellow light, like, yeah maybe.

But I think this idea needs some tweaking. Or red light, this is a bad idea. We should not do it. Can you just hold up that color to your camera?” And then all of a sudden, visually, you can see  if the screen turns very red or very green or very yellow or is very split. Gives you a sense of how to proceed. It’s a cool visual effect too when you do a colorful poll. Much more interesting than actually launching a poll in Zoom or Slido or anything else. Now, obviously, this is a little bit qualitative unless you actually everybody freeze and take a screenshot and literally count the number of reds, yellows, and greens or  whatever color you’ve designated. But the idea is turn a poll into a color. Make your polls more visual. It’s amazing how that invites people’s voice in a very, very simple way. Jan, thank you for sharing that idea. Have an awesome day.


No time for a workshop?

Use this FREE “Getting Started" Kit.

You’ll get a downloadable PDF that has:

  21engaging questions that build trust

  12 creative uses for the questions

  A link to video tutorials for group activities

  ✓ A 10-page excerpt of Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter by Will and Chad

You have successfully joined the movement of people around the globe filling their communities and organizations with conversations that matter! After you confirm your subscription, you'll receive a PDF with 12 powerful questions and some ideas on how to use them. #askpowerfully