In the early part of the 2000s Nextel launched cellphones that also served as Walkie-Talkies. The technology was new and demonstrated how communication was changing before our very eyes. I recently landed on one of their old TV commercials that made me think about how remote teams face similar challenges today. The Nextel TV spot showed each phone as a dot or team member. The goal was to keep visual sand audible contact to ensure work go done. There is a line in the TV commercial “we don’t agitate the dots” became synonymous with keeping disruption that remote teams faced to a minimum.
Take a look at this vintage TV spot…
In today’s business environment remote team members face new challenges that can agitate and disrupt them in new ways. Isolation. Loneliness. Disconnection. All of these disrupters can break a team apart and affect productivity and job satisfaction. Team members are not just dots or faces on a screen, they are humans who need connections and care. It may be a good time to consider simulating and connecting with your remote teams in new ways so they feel a part of the whole team and not just isolated dots. It’ time to focus on connecting the dots in new ways. It’s critical to continue to build camaraderie and trust among team members even if they don’t work in the same building.
David Burkus, best-selling author of Leading From Anywhere recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review about ensuring that remote teams continue to feel a true connection to the entire organization. As more employees and employers shift work to remote locations and further alter schedules and office spaces to accommodate for COVID safety measures, keeping teams virtually united is increasing difficult.
“The most interesting aspect of our work-from-anywhere future, though, isn’t what it will do to the physical “office.” Rather, it’s what it will do to the way we work, particularly the way we work in teams” (Burkus, 2021).
Burkus goes on to identify some easy ways to connect teams and connect the dots. It is important to build some space, some time, in meetings to allow the team members to share and connect at a more personal level. Not all team members will interact in the same way, but offering the time may be enough to lower the sense of isolation they may be experiencing.
At ActionCOACH, the world’s most successful and largest Business Coaching Franchise, we start every meeting with a WIFLE. A WIFLE is a free and unfettered time for a team member to express whatever is on their mind. It is a safe space that creates trust and openness. The WIFLE stands for “what I feel like expressing’ and during the WIFLE no one can interrupt the speaker and every team members get to WIFLE before the meeting actually starts. This opening moment reinforces a culture of open and candid communication. The WIFLE also serves as a vehicle to resolve conflicts within teams. Using a WIFLE to establish rules of engagement and clearly stating concerns, yet offering a neutral and non-confrontational tone, helps team members work through issues without having to escalate the conflict.
In addition, Burkus recommends that you add a bit of time at the beginning or at the end of any virtual meeting to socialize and chat so the team can share and make better connections. Remember in live meetings there is always chatter and socializing that happens naturally. If you don’t allow for it virtually, you stifle the team natural sense of connection.
We close our meetings at ActionCOACH with a WHOOSH. This WHOOSH is a physical motion of putting your left hand out and swinging you right hand forward to meet the left. It symbolizes how each team member locks in information shared during the meeting and then they WHOOSH it out and let it go. So, even if the meeting is intense or stressful the team members can move forward and the details don’t weigh them down or distract them.
This WIFLE and WHOOSH are rituals that ActionCOACH has built into its culture. When team members feel free to express themselves without retribution, it adds connectivity and increases trust. “For as long as humans have formed tribes, they’ve used rituals to bond those tribes. This is why most high performing teams regularly engage in shared rituals — they increase cooperation, build trust, and create a sense of belonging” (Burkus, 2021).We perform these rituals so both in person and virtually. They are habitual and comforting to all the team members.
Ultimately whether you use a WIFLE, a WHOOSH, Meme Monday, or Daily stand up check-ins, creating rituals for your team can help keep “the dots” moving forward and keep them connected and on track without agitation.
If you want to learn more about ActionCOACH and connect with a certified business coach in your area, visit www.actioncoach.com