The sustained nature of this remote working environment has moved past virtual happy hours and daily check-in calls to build a positive culture. Continuing to lead remote teams is now forcing leaders to elevate their culture-building creativity and skills.
Before to the current pandemic, an intact team had prior connections and a shared history once they went remote. As your team evolves you might not have as much relational equity to draw upon.
So, how do you build and nurture a positive team culture today and moving forward?
Although technology enables us to stay intellectually connected, it is less effective at helping us emotionally connect. Culture is built on relationships, and relationships are harder to develop in group settings (think of a 10 person Zoom meeting) than in a one-on-one setting (think of phone conversation with a friend).
We live in a high-tech world but leadership is still a high-touch job (even if it is a distanced high-touch). Here is a simple way to create real connections with your team. These are the kinds of connections of which winning relationships are made. There are three main components: Question, Common Ground, Compliment. We call it QC2. It’s a tool to initiate connections – human being to human being.
Asking questions is the least utilized and most powerful leadership tool you have. Asking questions is selfless and self-serving at the same time. It demonstrates interest in the other person while providing you with insights into their world – motivations, passions, challenges, assumptions, and aspirations.
Once you ask a question, make sure you listen. Don’t ask if you won’t listen – that’s the fast track to building employee cynicism. Leaders who really connect listen at least 50 percent of the time. Most of the remaining time they are asking questions like:
- How can I help you be successful?
- What gets you frustrated?
- When do you feel like you are in the zone?
- What’s one thing you would change to improve your work?
- What’s your vision for this project?
- What would you like to do less of?
If you are diligent about asking questions you will naturally find common ground. Common ground is a platform for enhancing a relationship or even building a bridge to mend a relationship. When you really observe, watch, ask and listen, it’s easy to find things in common.
Finding common ground is more about your mindset than it is about reality. Consider two people who are at odds and walk away from negotiations as a lost cause. Then a mediator walks in and quickly finds a win-win solution. The contentious parties are focusing on differences while the mediator is focused on commonalities.
Regardless of all our obvious differences, it typically takes a matter of minutes to find common ground which starts to solidify a relationship and also opens our minds to finding more common ground.
We do more for those who appreciate us. As long as your compliments are sincere and meaningful, you can pile them on. A sincere compliment is the quickest way to turn an enemy into an ally, a frown into a smile and resistance into acceptance.
Look for specific things your team members are doing right. In addition, look inside of them to find a trait you admire. Are they punctual, creative, optimistic, intuitive, selfless? There are abundant opportunities to sincerely and specifically compliment your team members not just for what they do but also for who they are.
Remember the key to QC2 is the one-on-one conversation. Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s the most reliable medium for building and sustaining winning relationships and team culture.