What does it mean to work as a team? How does one foster a sense of “team” when the physical location of members is dispersed throughout the country? What are the tools that team members can rely upon to strengthen their cohesiveness, in spite of their distance?
In the modern workplace, it’s common for employees to work remotely, either from satellite offices or even from their own homes. Consequently, leaders can promote culture and productivity by following three basic principles:
- Meet together in person. Despite the virtual nature of your teams, it’s important to, at least initially, place names with faces. It establishes a baseline level of trust among team members, as well as everyone being able to get on the same page about the shared mission and/or direction of the work going forward.
- Create a communication schedule and stick to it. When working remotely, it’s easy to get caught up in your own task list, but consistent communication enables team members to discuss what they’re working on, in the event that others might be able to leverage or contribute their own work streams into others. As Mustang The Story Author Bill Higgs writes, “Mechanical, structural, electrical engineers and designers all sat together to foster a sense of team and insure there were no communication gaps across interface lines. We knew that we could not take risks other companies did, because there was no buffer of cash if we failed. We had to get different types of contracts, work in different, more efficient ways and win work in a super competitive environment.Our intense work ethic and attention to detail permeated the entire organization to the point where people felt responsible to get the whole project out in good order…not just their part.”
- Utilize technology. Technology can be a powerful tool to promote connectivity and cohesiveness among team members. Harvard Business Review Contributor Keith Ferrazzi recommends using platforms that integrate all types of communication to include direct calls and text messaging, discussion forums or virtual team rooms, and conference calling. The tools that currently exist to help streamline work and engage the whole team is limitless so do your homework to discover what will work best for your needs.
Mustang always prioritized culture as they worked to deliver for the client. Higgs even recalls using short mantras and icons for different stages of a project to help people pull together. “For the Clair project in the North Sea we needed to reduce cost by 40% to make the project go. During concept work with teams in the UK and the Americas, our mantra was “Clair will be Different” to get folks aligned. Once approved, the saying became “Clair…Deliver the Difference!!” We put it on everything from email to signs in video-conferencing to trinkets on desks…and we delivered world-class performance.”
With the trend in companies continuing to employ virtual teams, it’s no wonder there are so many options for engaging team members. What strategies will you rely upon to foster a winning culture among your team?