Building Connection in Virtual Teams
A team is not just a group of people working on a project, it’s more. In a team, we feel connected, there is a ’we’, a bond, a feeling of belonging.
This is equally true for co-located and virtual teams. In a co-located team you might get lucky and the team comes together beautifully (– let’s not go into how likely that is at this moment –) in a virtual team, however, it is particularly important to work towards this because the frequently-quoted ‘water-cooler moments’ don’t exist.
For leaders of virtual teams, it is particularly important to be intentional in creating team cohesion and a feeling of connection because it significantly influences employee satisfaction and performance.
At Intao, we have been a virtual team from the start. We created a set of routines that make sure, we are aligned and focused, communication is transparent AND we feel connected to each other.
It’s safe to say, it paid off. Here is a message taken from one of our slack channels:
The Most Important Tool We Use to Build Connection in Our Virtual Team: Our Daily Morning Check-in
Our team starts every workday together with a daily morning check-in. Our check-in is designed to:
- Keeping everyone posted on what’s going on in our projects
- Celebrating successes
- Creating focus for the day ahead
- Taking care of emotional safety and well-being
- Creating a little spark for the day
We meet every workday at the same time. For us it’s 9:30 a.m. For a team of 8 you will need 15-20 minutes.
The Process: How the Morning Check-in Works
One person volunteers to start. In our team, it’s two people in particular who like to go first so we usually stick to them starting us off.
They speak about what they’ve accomplished the day before and what they are intending to tackle today. It’s not just about listing tasks, it’s also about speaking about feeling stuck or celebrating something we are proud of. It’s an opportunity to ask for support or share something personal.
When the first person is finished, they name the next person to speak.
The last person is also in charge of what we call ‘the motivation’.
The Special Part: ‘The Motivation’
What we call ‘the motivation’ is not really about motivating anyone. (If that’s even possible, is a whole other conversation.) Instead, it’s about creating a small spark for each individual beyond the actual project tasks.
We use reflexion questions, quotes, little stories. We even used to have a team member who led us through short meditations.
This, for example, was posted in our #selfawareness Slack channel as an answer to the question „What advice would you give your 14-year-old self today?“
Now, you think that has nothing to do with a connection within a team? On the contrary – this is about getting to know each other, even being vulnerable.
The Rules for Our Morning Check-in
We do have a few rules we like to follow.
- The meeting starts at the agreed-upon time – no exceptions.
- Once you said your part, you name the person whose turn it is next.
- Coming late means you have to do the motivation at the end.
- The check-in is mandatory unless there is an obvious reason to skip it.
A Special Note to Virtual Team Leaders
This check-in is a valuable opportunity to – well – lead.
As a virtual leader particularly, you have to be intentional about all the different levels of teamwork. The morning check-in is good for alignment and connection, for transparent communication and clarity around goals and progress. It’s a magic wand.
In a virtual team, moments of direct communication are rare. So you can use the opportunity, when it’s your turn, strategically. You might want to create a bit of transparency about what’s going on in terms of strategy, you might share a personal story regarding a topic you would like to team to talk about.
Don’t be scared to be ‚human‘. Being a team is not just about getting work done but about showing up as a bunch of humans who are excited to work on a common goal together.
The morning check-in allows you to make sure everyone is okay – on a professional level and as a human being.