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?

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.

Will you regret your success?

If you follow an unreflected assumption of success, you will lose in the big picture. Check yourself with the questions provided.

The group gathered from all ends of the world at the wooden kitchen table in some hostel in the middle of Dubai. They are exploring what success means to them and what they want from life. The swiss girl just quit her job and is convinced that success lies in happiness. And happiness is not connected to money. The guy from argentina is having is laptop in front of him – just doing one last thing for his job. He wants to get rich. Money it is!

The engineer from Kenia tries to find the balance between these two extremes – a certain amount of money will lead to happiness, he argues. But chasing money all your life doesn’t add value.

What is success to you?

How you answer this question will tremendously influence your behavior. And if you are one of many who hasn’t found your unique individual answer, it is worthwhile to check on your actions. Where do you allocate your time? Where do you invest your money?

Money and time are tremendous indicators in telling what is truly in a person’s heart. And there you will also find the truth of what you believe success means to you.

It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is addressing success from a different angle. He brings in a measurement of peace. What do you think of this viewpoint?

Think early, avoid regret

Everyone wants to feel successful. This is how our brain is wired. If we are successful we get this tranquilizing rush that lets us feel happy, invincible and at peace. Unluckily, if we are wired to the wrong measurement, e.g. what success means to us, we will pursue agendas that won’t lead to an overall successful life.

Let’s take money as an example: Earning the first money is awesome. We are able to afford to move out from our parents homes or to buy our very first own trip abroad. It feels awesome. We are successful. So our brain learns that more money is wired to a feeling of happiness.

Over time it will get harder to increase the income. The sacrifices are higher, we need to invest a lot of time to stay top of our peer and get promotions. If we never question the underlying measurement of success – in this case: money – we will run blindsided into problems, e.g. losing close relationships.

regret/rɪˈɡrɛt/

a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.

Dictionary

In order not to regret your behavior when it is too late, it is clever to question your measurements early in your career. With a regular reflection you are able to pursue a career and still keep your measurement in check.

What does success mean to you?

What evidence do you see in your behaviour – especially in time and money allocation – that shows that you your assumption about yourself is correct?

Are you successful?

In a corporate career you will answer this question within the career framework provided by your company. But does that external measurement align with your core values? How do you define success?

“Yes! I’ve made it!” Do you know that feeling that comes along? This deep satisfaction and happiness that a goal is reached. Usually accompanied with some sort of stress relief or even tiredness – because all the training paid off, the invested hours in learning resulted in a graduation or you are finally standing on a mountain after a long hike. Satisfying success feels good.

Usually we are connecting success with mastering a task, reaching a goal or getting a promotion. At least when you are working on a classical career in the corporate world.

Here is a different view: Just recently I watched the son of a friend doing his first steps. How successful, I thought! Amazing how quick children develop and learn – mastering their way into life without knowing the adult-way of success.

That somehow leads to the questions: What actually is success? Or better. How do you define success for yourself?

Why is this question important? Having a diverse circle of friends I can see how different each “segment” of friends is answering the question. While all business friends tend to take the general business definition of success that is mainly offered by their company or society, my friends in social service, schools and medical jobs (e.g. nurses, midwives) already answer that question differently. And the answer to that question influences the perspective in life and resilience in tough life situations.

Therefore, if you are working in business take a few moments in answering the following questions for yourself before reading on.

  1. What is success to you?
  2. When do you feel most successful?
  3. How do you measure success?
  4. Who defines that you are successful?

For each question I will comment why it is useful to think about it and what benefits you might have if you know what drives you. In the end all of us want to have lived a fulfilled life – therefore, better know your inner drivers early on. Otherwise these drivers might lead you to a destination you did not intend to reach.

What is success? When do you feel most successful?

Both questions address a similar point. But while the first one is targeting your rational, the second question relates to your emotions. It is worth checking whether your logical answer is in line with your feelings.

Sometimes human beings tend to tell themselves a rational lie because it is what they have learned, e.g. “Success is reaching your next promotion.”. But when you are checking on your emotions that you had during your last promotions, you did not feel the success. You might have felt pressure to bring higher performance. Or resentment because you gain that promotion with a too high invest in terms of working hours or working against your inner values.

If you find a mismatch between the two answers, acknowledge it. Don’t judge yourself. It might be helpful to write down your discovery. It is a great start for finding out who you are and what you want in life. Be happy that there is a mismatch; that way a really cool journey can start.

How do you measure success?

What is your measurement? Actually take some time to think about this question. Because the answer will tell you a lot about your inner drivers. And those drivers can easily be used by others to manipulate you. So it is very valuable to know them. By the way: that does not mean that you have to change them.

I give you some examples.

  • Youth -I am successful because I have reached xy at this young age.
  • Money – I am successful because I earn xy amount.
  • Grade – I am successful because I have grade xy in my company.
  • Status – I am successful because I have this house/watch/car/hobby.
  • Working hours – I am successful because I work a 70-hour-week.
  • Beauty – I am successful because I weigh xy kg.
  • Family – I am successful because I have xy kids.

You can continue the list as you like.

Let me give you one thought on the list: What do you do when you lose your success factor?

All of the named examples have one thing in common: They are all external factors and timely limited. Basically you have little to no influence in maintaining these measurements. Think again of the question: How do you measure success?

Who defines that you are successful?

Be honest to yourself: who has the power in your life to take away your feeling of success although you might have reached a certain goal. Who tells you that you are not enough? Or that you will never accomplish anything?

We all have these voices within us every once in a while. They come from our parents, friends or current environment. Although it is totally normal to handle an inner fear from time to time, it is important to be aware of this inner self talk. If you just progress in life without checking on that question, your inner driver will kick in every moment you touch a similar situation.

Here is one example:

If you have learned that only a 6-figure-salary makes you a successful person in life – and you might even get comments from relatives or colleagues while progressing in your career – you will never feel successful with your first promotions. The frustration raises when the promotion that leads to 6-figures is delayed. And even worse: when you finally get to that mark: you are not happy. You just reached the bare minimum of what is acceptable to the people who define your success. (and by the way: You will not get a “well done” when you reached it. Those people will raise the bar the moment you are there.) But remember your unhappy talks during those years: all the coffee breaks and evenings complaining about your ‘miserable’ life not earning 6-figures – what could you have done with the time instead?

Therefore, it is worthwhile to think about the question: Who defines your success?

And consequently: Do you align with that definition?

[If you feel that these questions made you think, take some time to write down your thoughts. Follow your intuition and be bold to question your current believes. It is a healthy start in getting to know yourself and setting up your way of life.]

Ask! Thought-provoking!

“What is the favourite question when starting a feedback session?”, curiously I throw this question into the discussion. We are having a chat with several mentors working with their mentees for quite some years now. “What rhetorical phrase works well for you?”, I continue. I don’t get an answer straight ahead but rather an “uff, good question. I think I have never thought about it.”

I smile. As a coach there is no bigger nor better compliment than “that’s a good question”. Being thought-provoking is the key element in coaching – and throwing a question into a discussion that cannot be answered right away feels awesome.

But aside from having fun in asking good questions, the thought process that is triggered by a good question is so valuable! People start thinking new thoughts, walking on new path and getting a new perspective. A thought-provoking question can inspire your friends / team / colleagues / boss.

When was the last time you asked a thought-provoking question?

Even as the youngest team member you can influence a whole discussion by asking a good question. For sure you have to put some thoughts into the creation of a valuable question – just a plain “why” helped you when you were a 2-year-old toddler.

Therefore, let me ask you this: Which question made you think intensely? What did you ask that made your boss/team go “uff, good question“?

I am looking forward to read your thought-provoking lines.