Team Purpose and Connection within Remote Teams

As remote work has ramped up over the past 3 months I have had numerous conversations with friends and individuals within organisations I am consulting to. I have always had a deep interest in teams and what makes them successful.

I posed questions such as
• Do you feel more connected?
• Is there an intentional focus on purpose?
• Is there a sense of belonging within the team?
• Is learning agility valued at the moment? Is there reflective practice about what’s working and what’s not?
• What was their felt experience in virtual meetings?

The anecdotal feedback early on led me to think that those who were intentional about their teams’ purpose and social cohesion were able to maintain and, in some cases, increase the level of engagement of team members. Those that were less intentional around purpose and social cohesion prior to lock down struggled to really engage their team members and in some cases impacted negatively on team members wellbeing and mental health. Some had to take some time off or were quite open with me about feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I heard comments around a lack of checking in, virtual meetings that were simply task focused with no social connection, long days and back to back virtual meetings that seem to end in a blur at days end.

On the flip side the anecdotal feedback from those that had a positive experience shared several differences.

These included:

“Each morning we have a virtual team huddle where we set our intentions for the day”
“Each meeting we always start with checking in on how everyone was feeling and that it was ok to share exactly how you were feeling. My manager role models this”
“Through a chat function or via text messaging, team members periodically check in on each other during the day”
“We have weekly conversations connecting people with purpose. It’s even more important now to be aligned with purpose”
“There are virtual team events to reinforce belonging – A birthday, a work milestone or Friday afternoon virtual drinks. I feel so connected to my team at the moment”
“Lock down hasn’t meant we go nice and polite, we still have the difficult conversations. We just need to be more intentional about our holding space.”
“We have a weekly ‘lessons learned’ conversation to see what’s’ working and what’s not.”

When it comes to purpose I have identified 3 things that teams can do.

  1. Be clear on your purpose. Sounds simple, but I worked with a team recently and I asked each of them to write down their understanding of their purpose on a yellow sticky. The team was shocked at the difference in views. This lead to a timely and open discussion on what the team’s purpose is which created greater clarity and commitment.
  2. Each month assess how you are going against this purpose. 2 questions I like to ask is – What are we doing that is supporting our purpose and what are we doing that is working against our purpose?
  3. Start each meeting with a story that brings your purpose to life. It might be a customer story, an achievement story, an innovation story, a learning story or a failure story. The key is that the story brings the purpose alive.

A colleague (Kammeron Cran) and I are conducting some formal research on the impact of Covid19 and lockdown on teams. Using our Purposeful Teams capabilities, we reached out to 8 organisations to assess their nominated teams on how they were tracking against our Purposeful Teams capabilities prior and during lockdown. The results will be available in July. If you would like your team to be involved in this research please let me contact me via andrew@agilityconsulting.com.au or 0417 225 350.

In my August newsletter I will chat more about our Purposeful Teams Model.

So, I will leave you with is. If you are leading a team are you:

• Generating energy and enthusiasm for your team’s purpose and
• What are you doing to enhance belonging and connection in your team?

Focusing on these 2 things will go along way in building an engaged and high performing team.

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