“Working from home is here to stay.” These are the words of Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, the video collaboration platform that has become a household name in 2020. We’re not saying Yuan had a hand in unleashing the Coronavirus upon the world, we can confirm his company increased its revenue by 370% in Q4/2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019. We witnessed a lawyer ‘wearing’ a digital cat filter in court to Wonder Woman singing “Imagine” with her millionaire buddies. Video meetings have become the lifeline for many professionals across the world.
Imagine a meeting without an office
For a virus that has forced society to ‘social distance’ it sure has changed our perception of intimate communication online. Yuan isn’t wrong in his prediction, although we were forced into a digital office environment many professionals will adopt this technology as the new standard in collaboration. But how do you build a team if the members are spread across their homes and even the globe?
Hi, I’m Sean and I work from home. No, this is NOT a ‘get rich quick’ scheme and I’m not selling trading software. I’m a MarTech professional with quite a bit of experience with building virtual teams using both technology and social engineering. You can read all about it on this page or contact me on how to build teams without boundaries.
Your meetings suck
Do you organize meetings, in person, at your company? I’m sorry you have to find out this way but the participants might not like them. They’re messy, unproductive, and boring. The team members would rather work by themselves or in a separate unit comprising a small group of experts in various fields. The way meetings are handled in companies worldwide do little to further the business goals and are often even detrimental to the bottom line. Think about it, you’re asking qualified experts to stop whatever they are doing to step into an office and listen to information they could have gotten in Slack or Microsoft Teams.
So if your in-person, real-life meetings are met with either disinterest or even disdain, think about working with team members all over the world. Stop organizing meetings that suck and start a new method of collaboration that produces results.
Learn to use your tools
On this page we’re not going to elaborate on the various tools you can use within your organization, if only for the fact that different companies will require different solutions for their particular challenges. I’m going to write about the way you can build teams that are able to perform in a professional environment without restrictions in time, location or size. Regardless of what the ‘best’ tools are, make sure your team members can work with them. On desktop, laptop or mobile, using WiFi, cellular, or a UTP-cable. And at home or on the beach, shout out to the digital nomads out there!
This is how you build a team
A team is not a group of people that happen to be in one location at the same time. Somehow this is not clear in many if not most companies. Take team building exercises for instance. People that might not even know each other by name are placed in close proximity to perform all kinds of tasks that have little or no connection to their day-to-day activities. How often do you find yourself standing on the edge of a table falling off with your back turned to the floor?
You’re not getting it Sean, this is an exercise in which you learn to trust your teammates. Well fine, but what happens if a colleague that I rely on is currently located in New York when I’m in Paris? I’ll drop on a Parisian floor, that’s what happens. Get off the table and get into the cloud.
Team building is not a matter of placing bodies in one room, it’s about sharing thoughts and ideas in an environment that is receptive to creative expression and intelligent discourse. But that sounds much more complicated so many companies rather opt for a field trip or a fun workshop. It’s actually not so complicated though, let’s take a look at some (remote) team building strategies that worked for our business.
1. Get the right people together
Professionals love to work with people that have different skills and expertise but are operating on the same level. Both professionally and intellectually. It feels liberating if you can speak freely without ‘translating’ your ideas to a communication partner that is clearly not operating on your level.
If you’re building a team with members from various countries and even different age groups you’ll have to take cultural differences and contextual awareness into account. A twenty-something female software developer from New Delhi will look at things from a different perspective than a fifty-something male salesperson from Melbourne. Sometimes skills aren’t enough to be part of a team.
Don’t let this be interpreted as a justification for a homogeneous team, on the contrary. Diversity in teams will allow for a wider range of thoughts and solutions to be presented which will only make the connections stronger. Also, keep teams small. More people means more noise and less productivity for each person. Accountability can be hard to maintain in a large group.
2. All team members should be on the same page
Diversity in team members, unity in the team. This means setting ground rules concerning all forms of communication. For instance common courtesy, a common language, and adherence to certain social values. Try to keep politics out of the discussion, however sometimes they can’t be avoided. For instance, a team member that identifies as a different gender or is non-binary. Or someone who is very sensitive concerning expletives or blasphemous language. Set ground rules and be flexible so you can adapt when required. You can get very far with mutual respect.
3. Conflict resolution
This brings us to conflict resolution. There might be instances where team members don’t see eye to eye. There must be a tie-breaker when decisions have to be made, or an assigned confidant to contact if there’s a (personal) conflict. A good team leader knows when not to get in the way of brilliance but is always there to support team members. Where people work together there will be conflict eventually.
4. Work from a unified vision
There will of course be team projects, don’t forget to share the overarching vision of the company with team members. This allows participants to see the bigger picture and put things in perspective. Although what you do is important, it’s still a part of a much larger picture.
However, don’t diminish the accomplishments of a small team or individual. Show interest, compliment progress, and mention names of team members during meetings. This evokes a sense of personal pride that will motivate individual participants and inspire other team members. Again, skilled professionals tend not to feel intimidated by their peers because they know their personal strengths.
Small rewards and compliments can go a long way.
Also, take a pause at certain milestones, reflect and analyze before moving on. Change direction if required, set new goals, and improve your planning where applicable.
The previous suggestions can be used in both local and decentralized teams. Now let’s delve a little deeper into remote teams. Although working through digital channels has existed since the days of ARPANET it has never been more widespread than today. Besides the aforementioned examples of Zoom and Slack there are many other solutions. Microsoft Teams for instance, or even a business related WhatsApp group. Choose wisely and look for a solution that fits within your existing workflow. The more flexible solutions will offer plugin integration so you can use the services that apply to your business.
How do you manage a remote team?
Video chat is important for team building. It’s difficult for people to express themselves with written words alone. Relying on chat and mail will limit the possibilities of group communication. Our expressions, gestures and just seeing someone’s eyes can be crucial in collaborative efforts. Do keep in mind your team members might live in different time zones which requires some flexibility of all those involved.
Team meetings should never be crowded. If the team is very large try to mix and match members so no one becomes isolated from the team. Make sure everyone knows each other, even in a superficial way. The team leader must also communicate with individuals so you can really focus on their progress, ideas, and emotional state.
Many video chat applications allow some form of muting and moderation. Write a simple code of conduct for all participants to avoid confusion during a meeting.
Remote working is not a given
Using technology will not be a large hurdle in MarTech, communicating remotely still might prove to be a challenge for participants. Some team members will take to remote working like a duck takes to water, without any effort at all. Some will even prefer working remotely from the home or anywhere in the world. Others will miss guidance, support, and an office environment. Be mindful of these differences and cater to the individual. There are plenty of tools to choose from, not everyone has to use a hammer if they prefer a screwdriver.
Do you want to have a chat? I’m available for a meeting in the cloud. Just contact me and we’ll set up an appointment.