Devin Singh, Ph.D. — Professor, Executive Coach and SurePeople Certified Practitioner — shares five practical strategies that draw on Emotional, Relational and Team intelligence (ERT-i) for teambuilding in the new, dynamic work environment.
Team building and creating a sense of community, shared vision and identity are crucial for successful teams — whether these teams are remote or planning their return-to-work (RTW).
Teams that gel together and feel a deep connection will communicate more effectively and collaborate more meaningfully and productively. In fact, one study revealed that more engaged team members were 38% more likely to report higher productivity. Shared identity will also motivate team members to resolve conflicts rather than letting them simmer and undermine team unity.
Team building requires planning and strategy, and even more so now in our virtual setting. Working remotely, with everybody physically distant from one another, presents new challenges for establishing and maintaining a sense of team cohesion.
At SurePeople, we help leaders mobilize Emotional, Relational and Team intelligence (ERT-i) to ensure deep connection as a team.
Emotional intelligence includes awareness of your own emotional states and needs, especially now under more social isolation. Relational intelligence includes understanding your own relational needs and the needs of others, as well as how you interact with and have impact on others within the context of your relationships. Team intelligence includes this Emotional and Relational intelligence within a specific group of people coming together around a shared goal or purpose.
ERT-i is critical now more than ever as leaders navigate a situation where their team members are physically distant and separated. Resilience and adaptability are called for on the part of leaders and managers to respond well to this new world. Empathy along with self- and group awareness are also critical to be able to understand where people are at and how team morale is doing.
Beyond the baseline Emotional intelligence that is critical for successful leaders and managers, here are five practical strategies that draw on Relational and Team intelligence for the purposes of team building in this new work environment:
Strategy #1: Consistent Communication
It should go without saying, but it’s important to recall how crucial it is now to maintain ongoing, consistent and open channels of communication.
In addition to keeping the team on track with its projects, regular communication serves to remind the team about its “why”— its reason for being. The team has come together over a shared mission and purpose. Ongoing communication about the shared purpose will underscore the bond that connects team members.
Strategy #2: Regular Team Meetings
Beyond a regular and ongoing channel for communicating with and among team members, it is crucial that the entire team come together regularly.
For most this will mean weekly meetings, although depending on team size, leaders may be able to break up the team into subgroups to meet additional times during the week.
Even in a virtual setting, such a gathering helps show and make manifest the reality of the team. Although we cannot gather in large groups or masses, a virtual presence can be important for reinforcing the reality of the group. Such meetings are of course crucial for conveying updates and announcements, and allowing the cycle of feedback from and among team members. This is also the place to raise shared concerns and celebrate milestones and successes.
Strategy #3: Care Calls
According to Bill O’Brien, Care Calls create a sense of psychological safety, which is critical for high-performing teams.
This meeting fosters a safe, confidential space where team members feel heard and supported. This enables people to know that their feelings during a crisis or challenge — even the challenge of working from home — are normal, appropriate, and allowed. This also cultivates empathy and deeper connection between leaders and their team members.
The purpose of the Care Call is to achieve understanding about where your people are at and how they are doing, and not about discussing work projects and progress—unless of course this is a point of anxiety that a team member wants to bring up. Effective Care Calls generate energy and momentum.
The simple act of listening to your people can often be what enables their courage to emerge and helps them face their challenges.
Strategy #4: Virtual Happy Hours and Casual Meetups
The lunchroom or break room at the office are not simply places to heat up food or grab coffee. They are essential spaces for employees to talk casually and connect in non-work ways. The same goes for after work happy hours, and even more so for company retreats that include bonding and sharing activities.
In our current situation, virtual meetings need to tap into many of the benefits of these casual spaces. The purpose of these gatherings is to foster non-work-related socializing, to enable team members to bond over shared interests and personal stories that are unrelated to work projects.
Humanizing team members and creating friendships through vulnerability and real-life exchanges has been shown to improve team communication and cooperation. Consider instituting coffee breaks or happy hours—and look into sponsoring a drink delivery for your people, whether coffee or alcoholic beverages at the end of the day.
There are any number of games and icebreakers circulating that many teams are trying out virtually now as well. Consider activities that promote sharing, openness, lighthearted fun, and even more serious sharing of personal stories and experiences in the spirit of team bonding.
Strategy #5: Celebrate More Often
One of the essential practices of any healthy team is the regular celebration of individual and team wins. This is one important ritual that reinforces team identity and sense of bond. Such mutual celebrations can also be contagious and motivational. It spurs team members on to additional success.
In virtual environments, such celebrations need to happen even more often. While it might seem excessive, find ways to celebrate more types of wins and personal achievements, even if they seem smaller than ones you would typically celebrate in a physical meeting.
Such micro celebrations will go far in counteracting the team distance and in boosting morale and maintaining momentum and cohesion.