One of the biggest issues faced by teams is the sense of disconnection that they feel when they aren’t in the same space. Yes, I understand that it’s possible to work in a distributed nature to ensure that productive work happens (I even wrote about it here), however, sometimes there is simply no substitute for human contact. After all, it’s something that we’ve done all of our lives!
Feeling a lack of connection to culture is a continuing issue but undertaking any kind of evolution activity to bridge the gap can often be daunting, especially in the current environment where managers don’t feel that they’re able to bring staff together to talk about the challenges or opportunities that they face. So the tasks pile up and work continues late into the night with no sign of change, empathy or support from those around you.
It’s absolutely possible to do the culture work virtually (I know, I’ve been running virtual workshops for almost 18 months!), however, often the budget, time or will isn’t there and many staff are frustrated at the environment in which they are asked to work.
In the absence of a structured program, teams can take heart in the realisation that they can do some of the work themselves, without permission or spending much money. What’s required is honesty, courage, vulnerability, empathy, a few conversations, an agreement and a determination to not go back to the way things worked before.
Here are six simple things that my clients are doing now and you can do too, to start the evolution process and to close the culture gap. Find some like-minded people, gamify it — or just don’t take it too seriously — and see how many you can introduce:
- Replace Monday morning meetings with mental health check-ins — don’t start the week by getting stuck straight into the maelstrom of work, instead, start by asking people about their weekend and how they feel about the week ahead. If people are stressed and anxious before work starts, then it’s not going to get any better, knowing this helps the team to pull together and to spread the responsibility for addressing these issues
- Agree how you’ll use your tools (and do a virtual course to increase your knowledge of how to use them) — most organisations implemented technology without a thought of how they should be used. As a team you should create a charter (or similar) that articulates which tools you’ll use for what and then make sure you educate yourselves on how to get the best value from these — as a starting point here is one for Teams and one for Zoom
- Introduce some regular group learning — take time out of your week to watch a speech, listen to a podcast (here is one and here is another!) or ask someone from another department to educate you on work they may be doing. Some catchy names that current clients use include; The Monday Motivational, Lunchtime Learning, The Development Hour and Sandwich Sessions. By learning together you grow together and that inspires future team (and personal) growth
- Find out a little more about each other — introduce yourselves by talking a little bit about how you came to be part of the team. Do a ‘5 Minute Potted Background’ exercise which includes details of home town, favourite pet/toy, first job, favourite job (and why), favourite thing to do outside work and so on. Focus only on the positives and ensure that people have time to plan what they want to say
- Share your task lists — there’s no better way to hold each other accountable than to have a shared task list. By doing this, you can increase accountability around workload and also the discipline you have to get things done. It’s also a great way to share capacity. Tools such as Trello can be used to create virtual Kanban boards so that you can leverage technology too
- Challenge and change the dumb stuff — send too many emails? Decide as a team that you won’t do it anymore (especially that CC nonsense). Have too many meetings? Decide as a team that you’ll cut back on yours or at least change the times of them to (say) 18 minutes and 38 minutes. Don’t fight fire with fire, fight it with sand. It’s a better way to ensure that people don’t burn out
Closing the culture gap doesn’t need to take years to do, you can start the process immediately. What will you do first? And what can you add so that others can learn from you?