Since my team works all over the country, it was a virtual team from the very beginning. For the first six month we only met 30 minutes a week online. But when the first meeting in person came up, everyone hugged each other as if they had known each other for a long time. Somehow relationship, trust and team spirit grew in those 30 minutes sessions for half a year. Here are some ideas of what worked well:
Teamcalls can have the tendency of having one person speak and the others listen. Even if the moderator doesn’t want it to happen, it is not easy to get everyone involved. Therefore prepare everyone to contribute and hold everyone accountable. Give everyone a platform to speak. I am convinced that this is the only way, you will build a relationship between the people calling. If one person always is silent, it will be awkward for everyone else and step by step everyone will draw back. Growth starts where everyone gives and gets.
As a moderator ask a question and give each team member 1-2 minutes to share an answer. Here are some easy questions to getting started:
- What was your highlight last week?
- What was your latest success?
- What is on your lunch plate today?
- How are you doing?
Especially in the first meetings, this is key. You need to see your teammates. Your brain needs time to match voices with faces. You can share irony and jokes much easier with facial expressions.
Once your team knows each other very well, you can leave the camera off every once in a while. But from experience I highly recommend to ask everyone to turn on their cameras.
Your voice is a melody
You know those calls where one person speaks like a robot for minutes and no one listens!? Don’t be a robot. Articulate well. Bring emotion into your voice. As a moderator it is your responsibility not to be boring.
If you are unsure whether you are speaking boring, ask your teammates. Be open for feedback. And if you don’t have the talent of a good moderator (which is totally fine), find a teammate who has that gift. You don’t have to do everything yourself. But you have to create a platform on which others can perform.
WHY are you doing the call
In order to be successful in building a virtual team, you will need to know why you are doing the call. What are you aiming for?
Let’s talk about the moderator. That is either you or a teammate. That person needs to bring in enthusiasm, dedication for the set up “call”, interest in people and a passion to build this team.
If you are that person, be aware that no one will motivate you. You need to motivate yourself. You need to know why you do that call. Whatever energy you bring in that call, it will influence the success … meaning: if you are dead-boring … your calls will be dead-boring and your team won’t grow. Same is true for cynicism – if you do this call because you have been “forced” to do so and you cope your unwillingness in your moderation with cynical words, you won’t build a team. People will be rather astonished why you even called them in the first place.
Therefore, be very clear and precise why you initiate a call and what you want to accomplish.
Keep the teamcall small
In order for everyone to participate, start a call with 6-8 people. It is possible, to do the described concept with more people, but it gets harder as you need to keep up the interest in the call. And as only one person can speak, people will be silent for more than 10 minutes before it is their turn.
Rather split your group in smaller teams – when you aim for team building and growing relationships between people.
Have an agenda
Do you know these awkward moments when there are 20 minutes left and the only thing on the agenda is “any other questions”? And no one speaks…
This is neither cool as a moderator nor as an attendee. Therefore be prepared with an agenda. The engagement question I shared in the beginning of this article is just a warm up. After that you need to bring relevant and interesting topics. Ideally you involve your teammates in this.
Align with them beforehand who shares what experience within 3-5 minutes. Who did what training? Who shares the content of a cool TED talk? And lets discuss the latest news within our company.
Love your people and have fun
Most of all … just have fun calling your people! If you want to grow a strong team, bring in your personality and emotions. These calls are not about facts and figures, the next big win or strategy. It is about growing relationships – in order to have a network on which your business can grow. These are the invisible lines in your company where people share their ideas, when they don’t quit on you because the competitor wants to pay +10% and when they go the extra mile on no charge because they care about the team results.
Most likely, these aspects aren’t complete. But they are a start. Feel free, to test and try and add your own aspects and ingredients. Please share your addition thoughts and success stories.