A growing company is in essence a team of individuals of varying skills who come from different cultures, creating a unique company culture by working together.
This beehive of individuals shapes the assumptions, beliefs and values of the organization, apart from the surface-level elements like branding, company benefits, hierarchy and the various HR policies.
Various people working together in an organization form groups that develop unique thought patterns and behaviour.
Internal interaction in many such groups can be collaborative, task-oriented or just a broad focus on the primary goal.
As new people join the organization, the company culture further evolves, leading to new challenges related to scalability, communication, decision-making and the various work-flow patterns.
As the internal integration clashes with the various external factors, the innovative and fast-moving qualities often turn into frozen, bureaucratic systems.
Culture is an ever-evolving, emergent occurrence. Leaders often take employees of off-site gatherings, read a book, or try to rewrite the company’s values and vision.
It will only be an eye-wash if it does not impact the employee's daily experience at work or if the leaders are not adaptive to employees needs.
Thinking of company culture as traffic, the leader needs to intentionally guide and shape the environment in which the culture evolves.
Example: Just talking about a flexible working environment isn’t enough if the lower-level employees are not given the discretion or choice.
Remote working needs to be deconstructed and distilled based on ‘first principles’ of what problem is getting solved, and how best a project or task can be handled by the entire team in an entirely new setting.
Instead of resorting to old habits (like making a phone call to colleagues for simple things) or insisting on doing stuff only for the sake of it, one needs to completely rethink about work interactions, methods and values.
Remote work requires thoughtfulness, precision and planning. Things cannot be done ad hoc in office corridors and lobbies anymore.
Many colleagues share different time zones and cannot participate in a synchronous exchange of information.
Communication, especially the asynchronous, written variety, is the main pillar of remote working.
Communication tools like Slack are to be used smartly to be really effective, and not to be turned into dumping grounds of information that is hardly visible to all remote workers. When needed, one can use real-time communication to touch base with everyone, enabling connectedness and a sense of belonging, without being imposing.
A sense of connection and belonging are sentiments that are helpful for building “affective trust” – a form of trust based on emotional bond and interpersonal relatedness.
It varies from the “cognitive trust” – which springs from reliability and competence. Both are influential to performance, but affective trust tends to be more salient for a team at the beginning of a relationship, according to studies.
If your icebreaker questions are intriguing, cheeky, humorous – the answers you receive will be, too.
Many remote teams will kick off their weekly meeting with an icebreaker question or insert it during their morning stand-up meeting. Even more popular is asking a series of icebreaker questions during the onboarding process when hiring someone.
With affective trust being so important to foster at the beginning of a relationship, onboarding new hires well becomes even more critical for virtual team building.
You can partner newcomers with experienced employees and have a formal onboarding process at the company, or at least a partially in-person one, with expenses covered by the company.
Many remote companies offer buddy systems for onboarding. This is also a way for people to have fun and get closer, as well as to increase job satisfaction and commitment.
This can take the form of assigning an official “mentor” or a random employee, with whom they have periodic one-on-one meetings to get acclimated to the company.
After a project ends, team members often reflect on what worked, and what did not, something known as post-mortem documentation.
What is often overlooked is a pre-mortem exercise where a team uses visualization and second-level thinking to imagine the various scenarios which could lead to failure and then work backwards, using prospective hindsight.
Just one ‘Pre-Mortem’ meeting at the beginning of the project can uncover many blind spots, recalibrating the mindset of all the team members.
Anticipating the future also fosters honest and open communication, and quells any fear.
Monitoring software that checks time spent on different applications, chat response time, and keystroke recording is now in great demand.
HR departments worldwide are fueling the use of technology to have a way to control the employees that are now no longer in the office.
The sound of the office, with printers, keyboards and coffee machines is something that is missed so much that many are a Spotify playlist of workplace sounds while working from home.
Employees miss the office so much that they are not finding the work from home forever model to be enticing, even after they are offered a bonus to stay home.
.. .is defined as working with tools that don’t demand an immediate response.
Remote work has its own set of challenges (like different time zones) and is filled with distractions. In order to keep productivity up within a working team while providing them the flexibility they need to take care of their families (and themselves), there is a need to increase the use of asynchronous communication.
Asynchronous communication allows you to think and reflect before taking action.
While real-time communication is all-important, the global crisis and work-from-home culture have made us realize the productivity benefits of non-real time communication.
Constant video interaction is great to look as if you are working but isn’t the best use of your time. Rather than being on the video call for everything, it’s better to make a video recording of the particular action (in your own time) and let others see it when they can.
Use asynchronous video to be able to show your face and expressions when needed, getting in touch the real way in a remote setting. This leaves time for your 'deep work' activities.
They are a great way to call someone and talk to them without disturbing them in real-time.
A phone call is no longer polite now and sending a voice message while discussing an idea, feedback, or reflection is a ‘soft’ method that works asynchronously.
This is one of the oldest and most reliable means of asynchronous communication.
Using email in conjunction with a text message or an attached video works even better. Try to be contextual and respect the other person's time.
Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments.
It's challenging to focus on your camera for an entire meeting, but know that you increase the impact of your points when you look deep into it.
Strong voices convey authority, credibility, and confidence.
Using a loud voice will also keep you from mumbling and from speaking too quickly due to the amount of breath required.
Make sure you have time before the meeting to pick your location and put your head fully in frame.
In a video conference, your head and the top of your shoulders should dominate the screen. Also, be mindful of your background. Distracting elements will pull attention away from you.
Resist the temptation to check your email or attend to other work, because you don’t want to be caught unprepared if asked a sudden question.
Close those other windows, turn your phone upside down, and remember that you’re on camera.
Be very aware of the power you have over your virtual and physical environments:
Use it as an opportunity to emphasize your ideas and prove that you’re fully present. A few examples:
Working remotely, especially when your team is distributed across the globe, means working asynchronously, that is, across time zones. This is a skill.
Don't assume that others know what you're talking about. Provide some clarifying context. Then, re-read your question, trying to identify the places that you make assumptions, and anticipate any issues that may result.
Include links to your references to ensure they're looking at the same thing you are.
Small talk allows people to stay in the loop with work projects. Posting updates about what you're working on allows for better alignment with the rest of your team.
It will enable others to review any conversations they may have missed and contribute to in their own time. Be sure to have a system for it, like an internal blog.
If you are in Denver and the person you're asking is in Perth, waiting for approval or 100 percent certainty will slow every decision down by one day.
As long as there's no irreversible risk, act first. You can always adjust later.
Most professionals know the value of networking, but due to time constraints, family obligations, or being introverts, they aren't able to build a network.
The 4 strategies for people who have avoided networking in the past, to re-frame the process and enjoy it.
Some people see networking as some sort of classless transaction.
They need to re-frame this activity as a way to make interesting friends and acquaintances in the long run.
Apart from the networking process, many people who shy away from networking are not trusting the people involved.
The solution is to identify the people you truly respect (maybe by making a list) and build a quality offline network, taking the help of professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
Networking can help us in unexpected ways, like peer recommendations, and this may be unclear to us at first.
One should assess their existing network to gauge its strength and take action where there is an opportunity for improvement.
There are countless ways and strategies to meet interesting people professionally.
Apart from hosting dinners or coffee outings, try to apply innovative strategies like interviewing people for your podcast or blog, or riding on some key conferences by scheduling your meetings during that period, leveraging from the hype.
Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a psychology professor, synthesized team development into four basic stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
This stage of teamwork is all about first meetings and first impressions.
What everyone needs most is a clear understanding of their part in the journey and a setup for building emotional connections. Setting goals together puts their skills and interests into the open.
Most teams go through the storming stage in some form or another because discord is inevitable. The key value to emphasize in the team is positive intent.
A little conflict is needed to bring upfront weak spots in projects and to bring new valid arguments to the table. But constant storming leads to the destruction of productivity, projects, and ultimately, the team itself.
Getting to the Norming stage takes a healthy dose of observation, identification, and action on things that are working (and not working).
Teams that stay in Norming are constantly working out things like communication preferences, recognition of achievements, and workflows.
This is the stage when the synergy comes in: