“With you, guys, I can be honest. You feel like friends.” is one of the best sentences I have heard in my latest team meeting. Though we are basically a virtual team – seeing each other 4 times a year – we managed within a year through weekly calls to build a strong team that connects on a deeper level. Now everyone looks forward to our team call and leaves the 30 minute-talk laughing and refreshed.
While a lot of people might think that this was just pure luck, I know that there are certain principles that pathed the way for this team to evolve. Let me share a few of them with you.
Regularity builds trust
Setting the scene is essential for a great play. Therefore team building starts with some administrative stuff that frames your playfield. You need to decide, when does the team meet where for how long.
Find a day and time that is usually not booked in your company and when all team members are available without having stress to make it. In order for people to remember the last meeting and to get a feeling of regularity, I suggest to use a weekly rhythm. In that way people don’t miss too much if they are on vacation or on sick-leave. In addition, choose a length that is manageable: 20 – 30 minutes are totally enough to build a strong team.
Especially in the beginning of creating a team it is crucial to not miss one team meeting/call. Choose the timing so well and stable that it doesn’t have to be changed in the first months. As a leader you have to make that meeting your very priority. The people attending will easily feel whether you are committed or if you already skip meetings in the beginning. The regularity of that meeting/call already builds trust – trust in you as a leader that you are doing what you told your team. Trust me – if you skip a meeting in the first few month, no one will give you a bad feedback, but it will have a negative effect on your team building.
Congratulation, now you are set up and the game can start. Let’s have a look at the agenda.
Use the agenda for the right dynamic
What is the one thing everyone loves talking about?
It’s true. If people tell stories they usually talk about themselves. This is how we are made. We feel important and part of a group when people take time to listen to us. And therefore that component should be essential in your team meeting/call. Everyone gets the chance to speak and be heard because it raises the engagement in the meeting/call of every attendee. In addition, it helps your team to get present and be in the here and now.
Here is an easy way to start a meeting in which everyone is heard: Every team member gets 2 minutes to share their thoughts in the beginning about 2 categories.
- Personal insight
For the category Work you can ask: How was your week? On which project are you working? What is the latest update and status? (pick one question)
Questions in this category help your team members to reflect upon the week. They have a break in their hustle and ask themselves where they are at. Which such a question you give your people a platform to get present. In addition, that type of a question triggers the logical side of the brain and it is an easy start to share some thoughts because it is the main mental area your people work with on a daily basis.
The category Personal insight is much more creative and builds a balance to the logical question No. 1. You can ask: What was your highlight this week? What are you grateful for? What made you laugh?
These questions are also reflection questions but they connect to positive emotions. And those emotions are the glue that you need in your meeting/call so that people connect. Your team needs to laugh together. They need to celebrate successes together. These positive moments will create a team spirit no task can ever do.
You – the moderator of the meeting/call – are responsible for setting the scene. Explain the 2-minute-rule and ask the questions. Comment gently on each contribution – especially when you are in a call and cannot see each other. A nice “thank you” or “well done” creates interaction. Make sure you share your 2 minutes, too. It is very important that there is an equality between all attendees although you are the moderator.
With this start you have used 1/2 – 2/3 of the meeting/call. And that is totally fine. It is the most important part. In the beginning of your team meetings people will share high level information. Trust needs to evolve over time. But soon you will see that they are opening up. And seeing the team grow is pure beauty.
the Positive ending
After the contribution of everyone you can bring in all the admin-stuff and knowhow that needs to be shared. Whatever you or a team member wants to share stay in a 3-minute slot for each topic. You want a meeting/call as easy and light as possible. In the beginning the 3-minute restriction feels like a burden, but soon you will realize how much can be shared in that time without creating information overload.
When you head for the end of the call invest a little bit in positive vibes. Raise your voice, bring in emotion. Invest in the good mood of everyone. This has nothing to do with being fake – but as a leader of the call you are responsible to bring in a good laugh and joyful atmosphere. Trust me, everyone is more likely to come to the next call when they know they will leave the meeting/call with more energy than they attended.