Meaningful Team Calls – but how?

No one wants to be boring – and yet, we are faced daily with dead-boring meetings. Here are some ideas to freshen up your style.

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:

Engage everyone!

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:

  1. What was your highlight last week?
  2. What was your latest success?
  3. What is on your lunch plate today?
  4. How are you doing?

Camera on

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.

Your list of „Why not“ kills your career

How do you like people telling you first thing why your ideas and plans won‘t work?

While a reality check is quite healthy from time to time, way too often people rather think of „why not“ instead of „how“. I see this daily with my clients and some of my colleagues. Instead of being the driver of change, they know all the reasons and risks why an idea will fail.

But guess what … you are not being paid for listing all the „why not possible“ points. Your boss employed you to solve problems. And that is basically why your clients pay your company, too. You solve a problem for them, they cannot solve on their own.

Whether you are providing a service or a product – at core, you are adding value to your clients lives. And if you don’t add value, you are – quite frankly – useless.

If you are self-employed, you see the effects in your sales numbers immediatly. The bigger the organization you are working for, the effect of your problem-focussed mindset will be less obvious. Maybe you wonder why you don‘t get the promotion you are longing for. Maybe you are not asked to work on the interesting assigntments.

Check on your words for a while. What are you talking about when asked? Are you the one that knows all the „why not“ or can you improve ideas by adding potential „how to“?

Challenge yourself a bit and start thinking in new ways. If you are very trained in thinking and speaking „why not“ this will feel wired – maybe even unrealistic. But keep in mind: unless you are not precisely asked what the risks of an option are, you will be perceived as a stumbling block to the idea and people will take you out of scope.

Instead, if you can add value by bringing up some ideas how things can work, you stay in the conversation. And when the reality check is due, you can add all the relevant risks that you see.

You see, it is not about leaving all „why not“ out of consideration. But it is about timing. New ideas need some space to evolve. The reality check comes in later.

Build the workplace of your dreams

„You can do this“, a glimpse of encouragement runs through her mind while she is facing her challenge. Despite her fear she lifts her chin and takes the next step. „You can do this“, she recalls the words of her friends and family. Confidence rises. „I can do this“, she speaks out loud and takes the leap.

Independent whether you need to make a decison, want to face your fear or take the next step in your work, encouragement will always lift the weight of insecurity and worry. Life gets easier when you have the courage and vision for the path ahead.

Same is true in your working environment. Each day you face new tasks, projects or people. Having a voice of encouragement around will increase your mood and things will work more smoothly.

Encourage [en-kur-ij]

To inspire with courage, spirit or confidence

Dictionary

Encouragement literally means to inspire someone or oneself with courage. By speaking words of encouragement to someone you actually speak courage and confidence in that person`s life. For people these positive words are like water to a plant. It is a necessity to grow.

The beautiful truth is that you can be an encouragement to your clients, colleagues and bosses. Every day you can decide whether you want to water the souls of the people around you. By speaking words of encouragement people around you will start blooming – giving you the possibility to work and live with people that are happy and courageous.

I am convinced that you can build the team of your dreams when you start speaking positive affirmation to the people around you. Be aware: It requires you to take control of your thoughts and words. If you think shit all day, probability is high that you will speak shitty, e.g. destructive comments or gossip. But if you master your thoughts and direct your words to the uplifting of people, you will see an effect in the people around you within weeks.

Same is true for your boss. People in leadership roles hear very seldomly positive talk. This is due to their role; when all is well, they won’t get involved in the matter. But when there are problems, they are the adress of escalation, leading to a lot of negative topics on their table. Ideally they are mature enough to handle the negativity; reality is that they often push down their negativity on the team. Take advantage of such behaviour and invest encouragement into your boss. Be the one with joy at work and give your boss a good time talking to you – which doesn’t mean to avoid the hard topics. It just means that you speak hope and confidence when it is appropriate.

Who will you encourage today?

A good leader can admit failure

People love leaders who bring in their whole self into their leadership role including their flaws and failures – at least when they are capable of admitting them.

Can you think of a situation when you admitted you had been wrong? Have you ever apologized to your team taking a wrong decision in the past?

If those questions irritate you, it is a good moment to think. I have met a lot of people in leadership positions who I never heard apologizing. Having even talked to some who were convinced that being wrong is a weakness one should not show.

But be honest: Even the most thoughtful leader will make a weak decision at one point. We are all human beings. Independent from our best intentions we will fail.

Based on what I have seen when leaders actually were apologizing, one could say: the credibility of a leader is increasing when admitting a mistake.

Why is that? Admitting a fault shows that you can reflect on yourself and your behaviour. It gives your team the freedom to fail, too. It opens up for honesty and giving grace to one another.

Having said that, be precise when admitting a wrong decision. As a leader people need to trust your decisions. If every decision you take, turns out to be wrong … well, people might question whether they should keep following you. Nevertheless, you are a human being. Admitting flaws and failure adds to your personal side in the role of leadership.

Why being UNHAPPY is actually great

First day of the week. Hitting the office right on time, starting your computer, getting the first cup of coffee, checking your email while trying to enjoy the first zip. The routine is killing you 15minutes into the new working week.

And yet, you keep getting back at this desk every day. Emotionless. Unhappy. But steady and on time.

I know why. The paycheck is convenient. It pays your rent. Your family. Puts money into your bank account to pile up for the future. The future… you are convinced that it will be brighter than today. Just a few more office days like these and then…

I had lots of talks like this with colleagues over coffee. Being unhappy, yet neither willing nor able to change.

Truth is, my mornings look quite the same. Yet, I am looking forward to each one of those working days, loving what I do – although I most certainly don`t like each moment of it. Where is the difference?

The greatest traveller is he who has been able once to take a tour around himself.

Confucius

Conficius is talking about taking new perspectives of oneself. Once you are able to change your thinking and getting a new mindset, you become aware of who you are and who you are not. You challenge all those “I cannot, because…” and start questioning “How could I …?” You get bold in questioning all your assumptions, e.g. “I will never be…”, “xy is impossible because…”. And while you are taking a tour around yourself, you might realize that you actually don`t need to travel away from your current location, but rather from your current mindset.

Here is an example: I know that I am most happy, when I can be a blessing to other people. I feel fulfilled when others are having a good time talking to me. [Will I get this right every moment of my life? No. But I am trying. I decided to bring the best version of me into conversations.] Therefore, I asked myself “How can I be happy at work?” Answer: By being a blessing for my colleagues. And while I bring the best version of myself to work, I experience a lot of positive moments, making others – and ultimately me – happy. I realized, I don`t have to change my job. I rather have to change my mindset and attitude. And all of a sudden everything falls into place and I am happy.

If you are currently in this unhappy place, be bold enough to check on your assumpations and narratives. Coaching can be a tool that is helping you getting your thoughts around the important stuff that matters. Be asured: there is absolutely no reason why you should be hating your life. Unhappiness is just a great indicator that it is time to think about yourself and start travelling around yourself.

How often do I have to call my mentee?

Ever wondered whether you are a good mentor? Here is an example of becoming the worst mentor possible.

„How often do I have to call my mentee?“, the colleague asks. My face turns slowly towards the voice I heard from across the room. My mind is wondering, whether this question actually has been asked!? I take a closer look. The colleague who asked the question isn’t even in the role of a mentor yet – and the question already includes a „have to“? I am puzzled.

How often do I have to call my mentee?

Generally spoken, there is no stupid question. And yet, questions reveal so much of a person’s heart and believes. Putting ‚have to‘ in the context of mentorship just displays how little someone is ready for a mentor-role. Asking for a quantitative measurement („How often…“) in the context of a mentoring relationship is even more shocking.

Back then I would have loved to answer:

You don’t. You most certainly don’t „have to“.

Call your mentee because you are interested in his/her well-being. Call him/her when you have news to share. Call him/her because you like talking to this individual.

But please, don’t call someone because you „have to“.

And please, don’t use a quantitative scale to measure a relationship. Don’t tick your „mentee-call“ off the to do list.

But independent from the grotesqueness of the content, the question implies a lack of vision for mentorship, too. The question at hand:

Why would you become a mentor?

In many companies it is an easy answer, when holding the role of a mentor is influencing your promotion process positively. But aside from your personal career, what are your reasons to be a mentor?  

Personally, I love to see people unfold their potential. My mentees are a very essential group of people who I can walk with and support in their career. Often, I bring in coaching techniques, my personal experience or just some time to listen to the topics of my mentees. I dedicate time to speak to my mentees in order to build a relationship – and then it’s easy to talk. This relationship is the basis for them taking advice, engaging in coaching moments and trusting me even with sensitive topics.

If you are already a mentor, take some time to reflect on your reasons. If you feel like calling mentees is a burden that needs to be done occasionally, think of options to change that. Maybe you need to quit your mentor role for some people. Maybe you need to change your mindset. Maybe you need to define your ‘why’ new. But please don’t call anyone because it’s on your to-do-list and you ‘have to’ call ‘4 times a year’.

If you are not a mentor yet, think of what you would like your mentor to do and start developing yourself into that person. If you liked your mentor to listen well, train listening to other people and engage in conversations with questions.

This is how to build a great team out of nothing

What do you think is needed in order to have a great team at work? Does it evolve by accident or has it been built by purpose?

Your answer to this question is very relevant and will influence your leadership style and mindset. If you are convinced that a great team evolves by accident, you will never invest in people but rather be jealous of functioning teams around you – telling everyone how “lucky” they were having such a team. But if you are assuming you can build and influence a team, you will act and speak differently.

As a house is built with an architectural plan, I am convinced that teams can be built on purpose as well. And even if you enter a functioning team, it needs maintenance to stay strong. Let’s have a look at some major aspects:

Select People

You don’t need many people – start with 2 or 3. Select carefully upon mindset and values. Be clear which values are important to you and which mindset you want to have in the team – and then look for people who align with you.

Personally I am a great fan of a “can-do-attitude”. People who think in solutions rather than in problems are part of my tribe. I have found that ideas develop much quicker when throwing them into a room of people who want to contribute to the solution instead of nagging of all the disadvantages. Nagging requires zero talent. Thinking strategically ahead of how things could work shows creativity and is fun to discuss on.

Write yourself a list of what you need to see in people in order for you to invest in them. And then be selective. Not everyone needs to be part of your tribe. But if you have the right people, you will enjoy every meeting!

Accept timing

Building a team requires time. You will need to invest a lot over quite a long time. If you have the vision, you are the one walking in the front. You need to be the example and role model – and your people have the freedom to adopt everything that inspires them. This freedom is so very important. And it is also the reason why you need to find the right people first.

Everyone is free to make his/her own choices. You want to be such an appealing example that people freely follow. And that needs time.

It also needs rituals. A regular meeting or call. Set up projects and events where everyone can contribute. Take care that the people in your team meet on a regular basis. For a virtual team this could be a weekly call. For a team that works on a daily basis it might be the break out session on the rooftop terrace of your office or the monthly bagel breakfast. Just make sure that the interaction is not only evolving around content driven work, but involves personal aspects. These personal aspects will lead to finding out similarities – and when people see a part of themselves in others you create that stickiness that leads to strong teams.

To get away from content driven meetings you can start with some small talk or an inspiring question. Here are some ideas:

  • What did you wanted to become when you were a child?
  • Who is your favourite music/movie star and why?
  • Which book do you recommend to the group and why?
  • Which food should be all taste?

Have a plan

If you are the builder of the team, you need to have a vision. Why are you building the team? What do you want to achieve?

There are tons of reasons: you want to develop a certain product or set up a service; you want to develop people and bring them to their next level; you want to earn a lot of money and with your team you earn more than working alone; you want to have fun at work with your team.

It can be all of them or a few. The only important thing is that you have a plan. This plan will lead you through tough times when you have trouble finding the right people or if you have selected a person that is not contributing to the team spirit.

I am convinced that this list is not sufficient. What ideas would you like to add?