My best friend called me up recently. Good news: she just started a new job and she isn’t being laid off right now. Bad news: she just started a new job and has no idea when she will ever get a chance to meet her coworkers in person. She’s not the only one. There are other new team members in her department, and I have started hearing from other friends in the same boat.
Most people I talk to are now having regular video calls with their coworkers on platforms like Zoom. Video calls were an exciting new way to connect for a few days. Now we are already getting tired of them and seeing their limitations.
A basic video call is great for:
- One or two people sharing information with a group
- Connecting with people you already know and have a good relationship with
Video calls are very difficult for:
- New members of a team or a new group of people working together for the first time in which they all need to collaborate
- Connecting with groups larger than six people
If you are hosting a meeting that fits into the second category, you are going to need to plan more intentionally about how you will enable connection and relationship building.
Work relationships are built over time as we get to know each other and get to know what to expect from each other. We need to know more about one another as humans before we can trust one another in a work collaboration. So first and foremost, if you have a new team or a new team member, you need to dedicate time to getting to know each other better.
Here are few ideas for how to do that within the limitations of a video call format:
- Show and tell: before the meeting, let the attendees know that you will be asking each person to share an object within their remote workspace that is meaningful to them. You can offer a more specific prompt (like share an image, picture, or piece of art that you have near you when you work or share something you have had for a long time) or you can keep it more broad. Each attendee will take turns holding the object up in front of their webcam and sharing its meaning to them. Note that this will take time, so you can have all attendees share in the same meeting or take turns over several meetings if you have a larger group.
- Share pairs: before the meeting, randomly divide up your team into pairs and notify everyone who their partner is. Before the meeting, each pair will connect one on one by phone or video call. Give them a set of questions to ask one another or a broad outline of what they should find out about the other person. It is good to have a mix of broadly autobiographical information, such as where the other person grew up or how many siblings they have, as well as more work-related questions, such as “What is one example of something you worked on in the last three years that you were really proud of?” During the video call meeting, each person will take turns sharing what they learned about their partner. I suggest having a time limit for sharing or having the reporting out take place over a few meetings to space it out if you have a larger group. Most people are more comfortable speaking about someone else, especially when it comes to sharing accomplishments, so I find this method to be a better way of getting to know people than having everyone share their own background.
- Personal Board of Directors: This is an exercise that has been around a long time and I think it would be easy to give as homework before a video call and then have each person share their results with the group. Denise Brosseau did a nice job creating a simple worksheet you can use: Personal Board of Directors Worksheet
- Online Assessments: There are lots of personality and communication assessments that can help each team member understand their strengths and needs better. Pick one that you would find helpful and have each person take the online assessment before the meeting and then discuss the results as a group. Here’s an example of one that I have used before: Job Personality Test
This is just a small sampling of what is possible within our current constraints. Do you have ideas or examples of what has worked well for you? I would be happy to continue brainstorming ideas for specific situations if you want to reach out to me through the contact tab.
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